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Anatoly Beaver-Hausen

Progressive Rock 101: Why PROG is essential for the Evolution of Mankind.

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Hi All,

 

Pendragon, The Masquerade Overture

 

Prog.jpg.032688928d9a581f024fd043f7aaee81.jpg

 

JJ

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After weeks of sporadic listening, the brilliance of this flower finally opened today. 
And I thought their last album was genius. 

2471EBB1-5725-4563-AE33-9FAC5D4DBEE4.jpeg

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7 hours ago, Sime said:

After weeks of sporadic listening, the brilliance of this flower finally opened today. 
And I thought their last album was genius. 

2471EBB1-5725-4563-AE33-9FAC5D4DBEE4.jpeg

Same. Took a few listens. It was the same for me with Opeth. Somehow the penny dropped.

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Roy is back.  Sounding damn fine.

 

New CD in another month.

 

Regards Cazzesman

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Posted (edited)

a4256098658_16.jpg

 

Ars de Er - Symbole -- latest album from French instrumental outfit. Like early 1970s prog played by a demented circus band. "Name Yer Price" lossless download from Bandcamp.

 

--Geoff

Edited by hired goon

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Hi All,

 

Steven Wilson, Hand. Cannot. Erase.

 

Wilson.jpg.7c919db6149a49a021e7400f7114da3c.jpg

 

JJ

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But wait there's more....................

 

Regards Cazzesman

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22 hours ago, cazzesman said:

 

But wait there's more....................

 

Regards Cazzesman

Hmmm.........not sure what to think about this one yet. Hopefully it will grow on me. Didn't stop me pre-ordering the red, white and signed vinyls and the deluxe boxset. I tell you this hobby is a sickness! 🥴🤪

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He's back.

 

Regards Cazzesman

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29 minutes ago, cazzesman said:

 

He's back.

 

Regards Cazzesman

Yes. Can't wait for the new album.

Delay after delay. Was supposed to November last year. Oh well greatness awaits.

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1 hour ago, patjoy said:

Hmmm.........not sure what to think about this one yet. Hopefully it will grow on me. Didn't stop me pre-ordering the red, white and signed vinyls and the deluxe boxset. I tell you this hobby is a sickness! 🥴🤪

Me too. Very Trippy. My initial impression is that l don't like it.

Huge change in direction.

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11 hours ago, needlerunner said:

Me too. Very Trippy. My initial impression is that l don't like it.

Huge change in direction.

I've had 3 listens.

 

It's got me..................... 🙂

 

Regards Cazzesman

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Downloaded this yesterday,

feast-front.jpg

 

in 44.1/24 resolution. Musically and sonically excellent. Have also taken advantage of the above mentioned Symbole album and will be playing it as soon as Fish finishes.

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Visiting the Djabe website I was, and remain, amazed to see that they sell their music not only on LP, CD, DVD and BluRay, but also on reel to reel tape!! WTF!!

 

http://djabe.hu/en/uzlet/

 

 

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They were great at Womadelaide!

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Afternoon team!

 

I have been getting a little depressed reading all about the corona virus so thought I'd drop in here to see if you've misbehaving properly.

 

Thought I'd take advantage of some diriculously cheap downloads so grabbed myself the following for my later aural delectation.

 

Albion - You'll Be Mine

 

 

albion - you'll.jpg

 

 

 

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Oak - False Memory Archive

 

oak.jpg

 

 
 
Track List:
 
We, The Drowned (5:24), Claire De Lune (7:16), False Memory Archive (4:56), Lost Causes (8:30), Intermezzo (1:42), The Lights (10:34), These Are The Stars We’re Aiming For (4:19), Transparent Eyes (4:59), Psalm 51 (7:26)

Mark Hughes's Review

It has been five years since Norwegian band Oak released their debut album, Lighthouse which garnered a rave review in DPRP. Since that release they have lost their guitarist Ole Michael Bjørndal and are now a three-piece of Simen Valldal Johannessen (vocals, piano, keyboards), Sigbjørn Reiakvam (bass, electric guitars, banjo, keyboards) and Øystein Sootholtet (drums, percussion, keyboards).

 

Any suspicion that the debut release was a fluke that managed to hit the zeitgeist of the time, are dispelled immediately this CD begins with We, The Drowned. The feeling is very melancholic, aided by the empathetic and quite sublime vocals of Johannessen. The five-year interlude has certainly not been spent in idleness, as quality pervades with each song, offering something different and yet familiar. Claire De Lune is heavier on the electronica and some teeth rattling low bass frequencies mingled in with a lovely fretless bass. Melodies are always to the fore and the rather unique blend of musical influences, from folk-rock, electronic dance, classical, post-rock and, yes, even prog are blended to perfection.

 

The title track is, by itself, worth getting hold of the album for, the syncopated clapping providing a backdrop to the keyboard melody as well as more superb vocals. The slow and quiet start to Lost Causes is very deceptive, as it is a great surprise when the deeply intoned spoken text breaks out. The build of the track is very considered and mature with fellow countryman Bjorn Riis (from Airbag), with whom some of Oak have toured as part of his backing band, adding some class guitar phrases that gradually come become more prominent and eventually take over as the lead instrument. There also sounds like some quite out-there saxophone, but as no sax player is mentioned I guess it is either some very clever playing or adept programming.

 

The Intermezzo, a piano adaptation of Debussy's Claire De Lune (mmm, I wonder where we have heard that before?) blends wonderfully into The Lights, the lyrics of which alternate between more deeply intoned talking and sung sections. In written form that might sound a bit naff, but it works remarkably well. The contrast between the two and the whispered title lends an air of mystery and suspense. There is a sort of resemblance to the last two albums by Talk Talk, not as minimalistic, but certainly a bold and novel approach.

 

An organ opens These Are The Stars We're Aiming For and things proceed along quite gently until a splendid chorus drags one out of their reverie. The album is completed by two tracks that are of a more contemplative nature. Transparent Eyes is a love song of sadness and loss. It is followed by the largely acoustic and perhaps confessional, Psalm 51. A beautiful way to end the album, although the end of the songs offer hints that it is not actually the final world.

 

For a second album, False Memory Archive is stunningly accomplished and leaves one wanting more. However, if five years is the time one has to wait in order to achieve an album of this quality, then it is well worth the wait.

 

9/10

 

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Coma Rossi - S/T

 

 

coma rossi.jpg

 

 

 
Track Listing
 
Mirage (7:49), Transmission (6:44), Jomolungma Is Far Away (8:49), Yellow Escape (6:14), Dream (13:46), Stillborn (7:47), Turn Back Time (6:52), Lost (9:14)
 

It's always a refreshing reminder that progressive (cliché alert!) rock related music knows no boundaries and here we have one of the few bands from the Indian subcontinent called Coma Rossi with their self-titled debut album. These guys are based in Bangalore.

 

What do they sound like? Well, from their FB page their influences range from: Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Camel, Tool, No-Man, Dave Brubeck, Japan, Radiohead to Tangerine Dream. It's safe to say you can certainly hear some of these western influences, especially any project by Steven Wilson.

 

What's the album about? Here's a quote from the album notes:"The music, though not bound by a singular concept, dwells in the underbelly of human emotions and surrealism that affects our perception of the world. The lyrics explore the feelings of loss, grief, and effect of time on relationships, but with a very strong undertone of hope. This album strives to depict human existence in midst of all the modern day chaos and the machine which is life."

 

And the music? Well here's my take on this band and album.

 

They're not an out-and-out technical band in the sense of complicated and bewildering solos strewn all over the place. It's more about creating atmospheric, layered tapestry of sounds, that can combine distorted metal-based riffs with supporting spacey keyboards and the occasional solo here and there. Certainly the first track, Mirage falls into this category. In fact this track does remind me of Opeth. The band do have a hankering for a good melody which is clear throughout the album with some great vocals from Tom Borah who sounds very western in his singing. Another track that conjures up these musical attributes is the intensity of the instrumental Jomolungma Is Far Away, with a fine guitar solo work towards the end.

 

There are more ambient heart-felt moments like Yellow Escape with definite leanings towards No-man and anything that Tim Bowness might have touched! A very atmospheric and sad vibe that works well within the overall context of this album. A good song indeed.

 

The centre piece to this album is the 14 minute track Dream. Replete with throbbing synthesisers, jangly stroked guitar chords, sympathetic solos, metallic riffs, atmospheric keyboard soundscapes, guitar and piano arpeggios, haunting background vocals that make for a fine track.

 

The song Turn Back Time is a track worth mentioning here because they enter the realms of cross-over prog with leanings towards a more pop sound with a very good melody, catchy chorus and some wonderful singing from Tom Borah, best on the album. Check out the official video.

 

The last track Lost continues with that cross-over pop feel with acoustic guitars, haunting melody, spacey keyboard sounds. Then it suddenly explodes into a heavier vibe with a startling synth keyboard solo (reminded me of Steve Wilson's Regret #9). Further into the song we also get a good guitar solo. A sub 10 minute track that offers some great moments and a fine way to end the album.

 

Overall it's a good debut album, but I do feel they missed a trick by not weaving into their compositions their take on western prog by incorporating some of their rich cultural musical heritage - isn't that being progressive? I know artists such as Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel have plundered such rich seams of music and it would have been interesting what Coma Rossi would have conjured up coming at it from the opposite direction. Also for me the album is too long (curse of the CD I guess) as I personally find it hard to find the time to listen to an album that's over an hour long. If vinyl only existed I wonder what these guys would have done differently to hit that magic 45 minute mark.

 

Anyway, great start guys, a worthy 7 out of 10.

 

*************************************************************************

Moon Letters - Until They Feel The Sun

 

moon letters.jpg

 

 

 
 
Skara Brae (2:50), On The Shoreline (3:37), What Is Your Country (2:35), Beware The Finman (7:47), Those Dark Eyes (7:36), Sea Battle (9:00), The Tarnalin (4:34), It's All Around You (1:10), The Red Knight (4:25), Sunset Of Man (7:29)
 

Welcome to "This Is Your Life"! And a grand applause to our hosts on this evening's fantastic voyage: Moon Letters!

 

That's the vision I have when listening to Until They Feel The Sun. For if there is an album which sums up many of my childhood affections and passionate explorations and findings in music then this is the one. To elaborate, I must mention that we grew up being constantly fuelled on music by a mentor who devotedly fed, nourished, tweaked and polished our small community with a wide variety of inspired seventies music. It was around 1980 and it ranged from hard-rock and metal to AOR and progressive rock, with everything in between. He also provided our first encounters with neo-progressive bands like Pallas and Marillion, still in the early stages of their careers, and managed to warm our hearts to bands like Lynx, Kansas, Saga and Styx.

 

In between this musical journey we tried to find precious gems ourselves. Individual discoveries we immediately spread amongst our group, being so exceptional they needed to be heard by all. As it turns out, it proved to be a long list of melancholic records, with some still to be found on my desert island list. Obviously accompanied by a great many more, discovered in the years that followed, circling and hovering above, attempting to find a landing place. They were albums with a marvellous display of talent and musicality, whilst being adventurous, comforting and unique.

 

Each has a distinct sound and corresponding feeling or memory attached to them. So trying to categorise and explain this complex palate is therefore nigh on impossible. Or so I thought. I swear I don't recall ever having conversed with any of Moon Letters' members, but they still come awfully close to expressing my upbringing with Until They Feel The Sun.

 

Having only been around since 2016, Moon Letters originate from Seattle, which is the place to be right now with organised events like the Seattle Seaprog festival. It's also the base for many new prog bands including Moon Letters. Along with Michael Trew on vocals and flute, they consist of John Allday (keyboards and vocals), Dave Webb (guitar), Mike Murphy (bass and vocals) and Kelly Mynes (drums and percussion).

 

Ambitiously, their first album is a concept telling the bittersweet tale of a man falling in love with a Selkie, a mysterious, mystical, elusive creature from the sea with the ability to bond with, and morph into human form (and back again). This romantic fairytale is beautifully captured through many layers and deeply touching lighter movements while heavier elements express the inner turmoil of the relationship. And thankfully these struggles are many, for it's the heavier passages where Moon Letters excel.

 

It begins with an enchanting instrumental overture Skara Brae, locating the events near the islands in the Orkney region of Scotland, coincidentally the birthplace of one of my favourite whiskies. Great melodies with a seventies symphonic feel reveal themselves with a distinct Yes feel (circa Close To The Edge) and a vintage, melancholic production. It suddenly changes to a heavier prog approach with short prog-folk insertions.

 

Divine, Genesis style flute appears in On the Shoreline, which I would also associate with Neuschwanstein, a band that captured my heart. Superb bass lines and keyboards follow, while guitar gently caresses with elements of Steve Hackett and Starcastle. Trew's vocals, sounding sad yet cheerful at the same time, enhance the melancholy feeling.

 

Trew's vocals are pleasant, appealing and a delight to hear, reminiscent of a tuneful Druid and Sebastian Hardie. His expressive vocal range hits all the right notes, managing to capture the feel and mood of the concept. One can feel the excitement or agonising pain of the character through the lyrics, most evidently in the exquisite serenity displayed in What Is Your Country. It's a wondrously, mesmerising acapella track filled with enchanting harmonies, carried forward by sparse drums.

 

With Beware The Finman, the delicacy gradually turns into a more adventurous style of prog. A sudden outburst breathes fire into a Jethro Tull style landscape during their Stormwatch and A prime. A refined touch of Ian Anderson style flutes are enclosed in a highly dynamic and musically complex structure, filled with riffs and breaks. Midway through, modern sounding synths sparkle and heavy prog picks up with fleet footed, virtuous drums before slowing down into a symphonic coda. With an emotive John Petrucci-like (Dream Theater) guitar solo, the song bombastically finishes in grandiose Transatlantic style.

 

The rhythm section of bass and drums throughout is joyous, laying down complex structures with constantly changing chords and shifting time signatures, comparable to that of King Crimson. It's more in the region of Thick As A Brick era Jethro Tull however with a wonderful display of refined musical structures that's both alluring and soothing.

 

During Those Dark Eyes, dark elements of Pain Of Salvation pass by through harrowing vocals, with flying Moog giving a seventies feel, containing delightful touches of Tull and Yes. It intensifies with superb interplay and keys into a more contemporary, uptempo neo-prog sound which reaches a peak in the haunting epic Sea Battle.

 

Here, we soar into dark territories with constant mood changes and elements of Queen with complex rhythms superbly executed. Delicate passages alternate with rockier segments and psychedelic keys, with Gentle Giant and UK like interplay on guitar, bass and drums. This overwhelming wave of moreish prog, in combination with the beguiling vocals of Trew, similar to those of Brad Love (Aviary) here, could have lasted me a lifetime. It continues with blasting organ and happy movements (à la A.C.T. and City Boy) containing emotive guitars, ending in a sea of melodic hard rock with shades of Nektar.

 

The spine chilling The Tarnalin provides excellent glimpses of a Beatles inspired Aviary with piano and meticulous Queen like harmonies. Dramatically driven by marching drums and mournful trumpets, the song ends on a blissful, intimate note. The brittle, emotionally charged acoustic interlude It's All Around You gives way to the album's biggest surprise in the form of The Red Knight.

 

On this majestic track, Moon Letters raise the bar higher with perfectly executed vintage keyboard driven hard-rock / AOR. The combination of heavy melodies, harmonies, Moog, rocking riffs and complex prog passages oozes a sumptuous flow of early seventies Kansas with traces of Rose's A Taste Of Neptune. Interlocking solo's, ever-changing rhythm breaks and frequently climbed scales drive this highly contagious, entertaining and dynamic track onward, resulting in tears of happiness.

 

To round off the concept, Sunset Of Man begins with enchanting flute, gradually recalling Genesis. Spacious keys morph into graceful Anima Mundi style symphonies (à la The Way) before spiralling into strong, up-tempo folk rock. Here Webb shows his guitar skills for one final time, making Martin Barre look pale in comparison. Aqualung like hooks juggle with Frank Marino style technique to finish this prodigious saga on a high.

 

Moon Letters' debut album has all the makings of a classic. 35 years ago, it would have been shared instantly amongst our group of music devotees, embracing it and spreading its existence to others. It's a fulfilling throwback to the greatest moments of rock from the seventies, filled with progressiveness and has a foothold in today's music scene.

 

The comparisons made in this review are just a fraction of the influences to be heard on this wholly satisfying album. With each turn, delicious and unexpected surprises occur. It even manages on occasions to spark fond memories of Netherworld's In The Following Halflight, an album that's been on my desert island for a long time.

 

Any day now, Until They Feel The Sun will plot its course, to fly alongside Mystery and Dilemma above my desert island. Perhaps I should build a control tower and a landing strip to keep things organised and create some way of descent. Until that occurs, I'd advise everyone to listen and hear for yourself the beauty that lies within this album.

 

10/10

 

******************************************************************

Jarod fedele - A Collection of Colour

 

 

jarod.jpg

 

 

 

 

Light Damage - Numbers

 

 

 

light damage.jpg

 

 

Dust - Dust

 

dust.jpg

 

 

 

Tempest - Thirty Little Turns

 

tempest.jpg

 

 

 

 

Moron Police - A Boat On The Sea

 

 

moron.jpg

 

 

 

Hocus Pocus (1:20), The Phantom Below (4:12), The Invisible King (4:05), Beware the Blue Skies (4:11), The Dog Song (3:20), Captain Awkward (5:12), The Undersea (3:27), Isn't it Easy! (6:57)
 

Some albums require a review that has a more forensic manner. Either to provide readers with a justification for the aroma of distaste that one has developed for its sounds, or to inundate readers with a flood of purchase-inducing adjectives.

 

Other albums can be covered in a more precise prose; not wishing to delay a single reader from bathing in an album's sonic sauna.

 

This third offering from Norway's Moron Police, falls clearly into the second category.

 

These dimwit detectives first appeared in 2012, when still safety wrapped in their teens. Their debut album, The Propaganda Machine, can politely be filed under "experimental". It did however provide a platform for the widely admired Defenders of the Small Yard, which drew a favourable verdict from DPRP back in 2016 for its fun-filled blend of metal, avant-prog and disco (review here).

 

This time they've shred their metal stylings. Instead, A Boat On The Sea focuses on a prog-pop sound that borrows regular snippets from the pick-n-mix counter of musical influences.

 

Amazing harmonies bounce across the heads of Scandic melancholy, fuelled by massive, hook-wielding choruses, wanton outbursts of guitar and synths, and some superlative-spitting musical gymnastics. Think of the compact pop-prog of A.C.T., a less-flowerly Flower Kings, or a less rocky Von Hertzen Brothers, with the harmonies of Moon Safari and, somewhere in the distance, the atmospherics of Soup. Put on a big happy smiley face and you have the basic formula for A Boat On The Sea.

 

No album in this or any other year will put as big a smile on your face as this one. It is quirky enough to be different, yet familiar enough not to be quirky. Look at the track times above. Nothing passes or even comes close to a sell-by-date, yet every song is packed with variety and delights.

 

Highlights? There are so many. Try the lust-for-life pace and joy that drives The Phantom Below. Or the how-the-feck-do-they-do-that verse on Captain Awkward. Or the delightful grand piano and Hammond that draw you back down a few gears in the calmer sections. Add to all of this, one of the most endearing album covers I have ever seen (I want one of those on my toilet wall!), on top of a sparkling production and some hard-hitting, socially-aware lyrics.

 

Simply put; this is one of the best modern pop-prog albums you will ever get the chance to hear! Guaranteed to bring a smile to your colon. Now off you trot and buy your own copy!

 

10/10

 

**********************************************

 

Stratus Luna - S/T

 

stratus.jpg

 

 
 
Nimue (6:04), O Centro do Labirinto (7:56), Zarabatana (9:34), Pandas Voadores (5:53), NREM-1 (2:15), Onírica (7:31), Efêmera (7:34)
 

Stratus Luna are a young prog-jazz-rock group from São Paulo (their eldest member is only 21). They formed when Ricardo Santhiago (guitars, lap steel), his brother Gustavo (keyboards, flute) and cousin Giovanni Lenti (drums) started studying music. In 2017, Gabriel (the son of Gong's guitar player Fabio Golfetti) joined the band to provide bass. This self-titled album is their debut-release.

 

For all their youth, Stratus Luna produce mature music full of complexity. Mixing nods to 70s instrumental symphonic progressive rock, Canterbury psychedelia, jazz rock and world music elements, they employ vintage sounding keyboards as the basis of their sound. A sound that is muscular without being overtly heavy, combined with the restless energy of young men. And they have a way with a tune.

 

Over seven tracks, they explore their musical ideas with a wonderful, warm sound to the keyboards and guitar, while the rhythm section takes the ‘less is more’ approach. They vary the time signatures and dynamics in a well thought-out way. Each song has an individual identity to separate them, but still retains a cohesion throughout the album.

 

The signature sound on the album is, for me, Gustavo’s organ and piano playing. On Zarabatana for instance, he moves from grand piano, to organ, to synth before his brother takes the limelight for a classical Hindustani section that segues into lap steel. The keyboards return with a Soft Machine-like electric piano and an organ sound as fierce as anything by L’Orme. But this isn’t to denigrate the other fine players on Stratus Luna. It’s not that I think any of the other players are anything other than top notch, it’s just that I love the keyboards so much on Stratus Luna.

 

Stratus Luna acknowledge their influences (bands such as Camel, Nektar, the Canterbury Sound, Pink Floyd, Grobschnitt, and Ash Ra Tempel) but they have absorbed these, and have produced music informed by them, without any slavish retro-isms. It will sit in my playlists alongside the two excellent releases by the Japanese symphonic quartet ptf, and it will, I feel, rack up just as many plays.

 

These young guys should be applauded for producing Stratus Luna, an album full of melodic charms, musical chops and complexity, but at the same time it is an album that remains thoroughly accessible. One of the most enjoyable (non post-rock) instrumental albums I’ve heard recently.

 

*****************************************************

 

Damian Wilson - Disciple

 

 

 

 

 

Tracklisting CD-1: Disciple (5:01), Brightest Way (3:18), Heavenly Mine (3:07), Beating Inside (5:02), What a Man Can Dream (3:03), Never Close The Door (2:51), Nothing Without You (2:34), Part Of Me (3:43), Adam's Child (3:21), Quietly Spoken (2:45).


Tracklisting CD-2: Grow Old With Me (3:31) , In A Word (3:07), Just The Way It Goes (4:30), A Monday Night In March (4:07), Nothing Left In Me (4:10).

 

Most readers of DPRP will know Damian Wilson of his work for Threshold, Ayreon and Landmarq. He proved a to be a powerful (prog)rock singer. On his first solo-album, Cosmas, he already showed a totally different, acoustic, side. With Disciple Wilson joins forces with the Sheffield Youth Orchestra for a collection of songs that can almost described as little 'hymns' and love songs. No prog included.

 

The album opens with the stunningly beautiful title track. A simple, acoustic guitar and a lovely orchestral arrangement meet with the very fragile and personal lyrics of a father, who is looking at his son with pride and tenderness.


Brightest Way is a more upbeat song with a lovely Hammond-organ part. The orchestra is less prominent here, but it isn't missed. The same is the case with Heavenly Mine, which features a folky violin part and a sing-along chorus. Despite the serious nature of the lyrics, both songs are very positive tracks, a celebration of love.

The following song is a slower ballad with acoustic guitar and accompanying string quartet. The drums in the middle resemble the heart-beat that's Beating Inside. The ending is very beautiful, with drums that almost sound like a loop, with bass and string on top of it.


What A Man Can Dream is almost a Christmas lullaby, which fits nicely in this wintertime. The orchestra, flute and acoustic guitar, it's all very gentle and honest. This goes for Never Close The Door as well. A beautiful, deep bass gives much warmth to the track.


The full orchestra and band return on Nothing Without You, a upbeat song, with a positive atmosphere like Brightest Way. Like that track, this one has a sing-a-long chorus. Part Of Me is another guitar & orchestra track, but a fragile quiet, personal one.


Adam's Child starts with a short piano-part, which is followed by a lovely combination of bass, violin, flute, piano and Damian's voice. This track is another of my favorites, if not the best track of the album.


Quietly Spoken almost makes you wonder if this is the same man as the one who was in a prog-metal band like Threshold. This is the complete opposite of the big sound of that band. This song - just Damian and acoustic guitar - is so gentle and fragile, it'll certainly make you shiver.

The second CD in this set, starts with the most special track of the set. Grow Old With Me was the last song John Lennon recorded before his death (that's at least how Wilson understood it). Damian Wilson got permission to record it with the Orchestra. The piano and his voice are a great combination. Unfortunately I am not familiar with the original demo, but I am sure Wilson fully does justice to the song with this duet-version. He sings it with his colleague from Les Miserables, Alex Sharpe, who played the role of Eponine. The combination of her soprano-voice with Wilson's makes you think that it could have been part of the musical.


Band and orchestra join together on In A Word, which is a 'bigger' song, with room for Wilson to show the power of his voice. Listening to this full arrangement, including trumpet section, I would suggest the Brits to send Wilson and the Sheffield Orchestra to the European song-contest one day. They'd win.


On Just The Way It Goes, Wilson is accompanied by piano only for the first verses, but a romantic orchestral arrangement (of the kind one can hear in films) and a lovely flute-solo make this song complete. Pity it's faded out.


A Monday in March is very much in the same style as the other songs on this second disc: a combination of quieter piano-parts and big orchestral arrangements. Not that it's a bad song (to the contrary) but at this point I didn't discover much new in the songs. There could have been a bit more variations in the arrangements and styles, as was the case on Cosmas.


Because of this, one needs some concentration for Nothing Left in Me, but it's certainly worth it. This time it's Wilson with his guitar that creates the special atmosphere for the personal story: a final word.

 

All in all, I can honestly say that I enjoyed Disciple very much and I played it several times around Christmas. It simply seemed to fit that atmosphere. At the same time, that's a bit of a problem for the album: it needs these Sunday-afternoons or romantic, candlelight suppers. For the average prog-fan this album might contain too much orchestra and too much love-ballads, but lovers of Damian's voice and good music will certainly discover the strengths of this honest and fragile album: the great sound of Damian's voice and the Sheffield Youth Orchestra. No samples; just the real stuff!


My personal highlights are Disciple, Beating Inside, Adam's Child and Grow Old With Me. Final note: I missed the point why this album is pressed on two CD's.

 

************************************************************

 

 

Retrospective - Latest Avidity

 

Time (0:49), Still There (6:07), Loneliness (5:13), The Seed Has Been Sown (7:52), Stop For A While (5:53), In The Middle Of The Forest (6:50), Programmed Fear (5:24), What Will Be Next (10:41)
 

This album just gets better and better and better with each listen. In the car. Whilst cooking. At my desk. On my bed. In the bath. Full hi-fi. Laptop. Mp3 or the full CD. There are just so many details. So many grooves and textures and moods. So many little melodies. Amazing guitar details. So many things to like in less than 50 minutes of music. So thank the Lord for whoever invented the 'replay' button!

 

I first encountered Retrospective eight years ago at the fifth Progressive Promotion Festival in Germany where their hour-long set impressed many (review here).

 

The two albums that have followed, have both won admiring reviews, and inclusion in my end-of-year best of lists. Both Lost In Perception and Re:Search still get regular rotation on my playlists.

 

Album number four features a largely unchanged line-up albeit with, it appears, one fewer guitarist. Jakub Roszak has that accented Polish voice that I have really warmed to and is one of the key elements that makes the Retrospective sound immediately recognisable. Beata Łagoda contributes keyboards but increasingly important is the shift she puts in as a vocalist. Her backing vocals richen the textures (as on the balladic Stop For A While) and she ably takes lead on one song here (Loneliness).

 

The guitar playing of Maciej Klimek is one of the things I love about Retrospective. He again creates some terrific riff and guitar fills throughout this album, but it's his soloing with which I fall in love with every time. Łukasz Marszałek on bass and Robert Kusik (drums) complete the line-up.

 

In terms of these seven new songs, the sounds is a natural continuation from the band's last two albums, albeit veering overall towards more rock stylings. There is still that sense of melancholia seeping throughout the album, and the guitar work in particular encapsulates many of the sounds favoured by the likes of Riverside and Collage. The way that Jakub Roszak uses semi-spoken melodies to link phases of songs is another detail that I enjoy.

 

The first single, Still There is an impressive opener with a dark, threatening riff and foreboding vocals which hint at a sonic explosion that never arrives. The soft rock chorus, followed by a superb guitar solo from the school of Mirek Gil (Collage, Believe) shows clever restraint. This band are masters at keeping the listener guessing where each song is going.

 

The Seed Has Been Sown is the album's centrepiece. Again we have some great intensity in the opening section. A lovely break around the three-minute mark changes the pace cleverly with a section led by a plucked guitar leading the listener onto a different vocal approach. The track returns to the original theme, but with a heavier metallic riff.

 

The rock sensibilities are most evident in the second half of the album. In The Middle Of The Forest has a very different, almost pop, groove mirroring the style of Simple Minds, before the final third takes a change of key for a Riverside meets U2 conclusion. Programmed Fear is catchy and bright with a guitar line that again recalls classic U2.

 

I'm always a big fan of ambiguous album titles. 'Latent avidity' is where one has a keen interest in someone or something, but one keeps that enthusiasm hidden or explored. Latent Avidity is one of the best Polish (alt-)prog releases you will hear in this or any other year. There is certainly nothing latent in my avidity for this album.

 

8/10

 

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Banco del Mutuo Soccorso - Transiberiana

 

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Stelle Sulla Terra (6:06), L'Imprevisto (3:29), La Discesa Dal Treno (6:16), L'Assalto Dei Lupi (5:35), Campi Di Fragole (3:36), Lo Sciamano (4:01), Eterna Transiberiana (6:20), I Ruderi Del Gulag (6:06), Lasciando Alle Spalle (1:47), Il Grande Bianco (6:33), Oceano: Strade Di Sale (3:39); bonus tracks: Metamorfosi (Live at Festival Prog di Veruno 2018) (9:43), Il Ragno (Live at Festival Prog di Veruno 2018) (5:43)
 

To ignore the Anglocentric nature of symphonic and progressive rock is as misguided as to deny the importance and influence of their Italian counterparts, the best of which measures up to anything the so-called “Big Five” UK bands ever produced. So, for every Close To The Edge there's a Darwin!. Unfortunately though, there's also a Buone Notizie for every Invisible Touch. It goes without saying that most of the 70s classic bands went through a creative rough patch in the following decade, and that's no more true than for Italian titans such as PFM, Le Orme or the band we're dealing with here, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. Their 80's releases veered from beauty and complexity to fall prey of pop blandness and even a "dangerous" penchant for Italo disco (a fun genre in its own right) stylings.

 

It's also true that, after a period of dormancy (if not disbandment), most of these illustrious legends came back around the turn of the millennium with renewed energy and the will to rekindle past glories. Now, it was virtually impossible to make a new Per Un Amico for the 21st century, but it was just as feasible to produce better music than anything from the 80s period. The result was (still is) a bunch of decent-to-enjoyable releases and there's PFM's Emotional Tattoos, released by Inside Out Music, to prove it.

 

Enter Transiberiana (also under the German label's umbrella), Banco's first release since Il 13 in 1994 (eat your heart out Peter Gabriel), and the first one without charismatic vocalist Francesco Di Giacomo, who sadly passed away in 2014. Before dying, Di Giacomo gave his blessing to Tony D'Alessio, who had the unenviable task of replacing a legendary (at least in Italy) singer. Did he succeed? Well, let's say his voice is an acquired taste to say the least, and I still haven't warmed to it, but you never know. After all, Nad Sylvan has his fans so who can say.

Led by the keyboards of veteran founder member Vittorio Nocenzi, the music presents an interesting balance between the acoustic and the electronic in an attempt to bridge the band's classic sound with more contemporary sensibilities. The album mostly succeeds in doing this, but I believe it is detrimental to the songwriting, which is not particularly memorable and ends up being a bit samey even if it tries to avoid traditional song structures.

 

This is not to say there aren't any highlights; among these, the majestic serenity of Il Grande Bianco is probably the best, but there are other good pieces to be found here. Stelle Sulla Terra and Eterna Transiberiana share the same melodic figures to weave a nice modern prog binomial, while Campi Di Fragole and the piano led sonic trinket which is Lasciando Alle Spalle represent the more intimate, acoustic side of the band. Also, as a nice bonus for the prog wistful, included are live renditions of two Banco classics, debut album gem Metamorfosi and Il Ragno from Come In Un'Ultima Cena, both performed with authority.

This Transiberian metaphor for life is, I guess, as good an album as it could have been, meaning not great but worthy of the Banco canon, and a pretty entertaining listening experience in its own right. That's something Yes can't say of their latest releases.

 

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Cheeto's Magazine - Boiling Fowls

 

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Track List:
Nova America (25:24), The Driver And The Cat (2:29), Volcano Burger (4:50), Teddy Bears (5:16), Four Guitars (3:08), Octopus Soup (6:52), Fat Frosties (6:14), Naughty Boy (7:10), Driver French (2:48)
 

I can't remember a time I have had more fun listening to a new release than when I first listened to Boiling Fowls by Cheeto's Magazine after hearing about the album on a popular progressive rock forum. I was grinning ear to ear the entire time as the band's humor and quirkiness washed over me. I am admittedly a huge classic Spock's Beard fan, and this album, at least the opening epic, can best be described as Spock's Beard on steroids. The band don't hold anything back on their debut release, and the shorter tracks that follow the epic show some interesting sides to an eclectic band. I have already been hooked by this young band and can't wait to see where they go from here.

The opening epic, Nova America, takes its structure from Neal Morse's many epics. There are sections of this track that I felt could almost be written by the former Spock's Beard front man. The band holds nothing back as they move from section to section. The epic starts off with a bouncy melody held together by the keyboards of Esteban Navarro. It sounds like Spock's Beard circa Beware of Darkness with its positivity and playfulness. After the first section comes another Spock's Beard trademark, the counterpoint vocal section, also reminiscent of Gentle Giant's vocal work. Then comes a heavy metal type section that is maybe more reminiscent of Haken, another quirky progressive band. Things slow down for a slower section, much like Neal Morse likes to do in his epics. There is more introspection and the vocals are more heartfelt and emotional. The vocals on this album are very interesting, sometimes a little harsh and silly, at other times beautiful and clear. The band does an excellent job of morphing to the particularly style they are playing in. The epic ends in grand fashion, repeating the big themes from the beginning and ending with a bang. This is a top notch epic and is frankly one of my new favorite epics of all time. It is a melting pot of styles and emotions, and is captivating to listen to for its entire running length.

The remainder of the album is quite varied in nature and shows that there is much more to this band than their Spock's Beard-esque style that permeates their opening epic. The Driver And The Cat begins with an instrumental counterpoint much like what Gentle Giant did in their heyday as it starts with keyboards and builds with acoustic guitar and bass. Then, the song morphs into a '80s style pop song with abundant synths, harmonized vocals and interesting beats. It is a unique blend and I imagine it might be what Gentle Giant could have sounded like had they lasted well into the '80s. Volcano Burger starts with a variety of quirky keyboard sounds before drums come in, for a very pleasing symphonic instrumental. Teddy Bears perhaps owes a bit to the sound of Frank Zappa with soaring guitars and keyboards and a quirky vocal chant with nonsensical lyrics.

Octopus Soup manages to blend several different sounds, including a section with sound effects and electronic beats with a saxophone melody on top of it. After this comes a silly chant that sounds like it could be part of an Irish drinking song. This band is certainly original! Fat Frosties is just a whole lot of fun through its variety of instrumental passages, showing further that keyboardist Esteban Navarro isn't afraid to use a variety of quirky, almost cheesy sounds in his style. Naughty Boy is fun and catchy with an interesting jazzy middle section that really swings. Driver French is another song in the vein of The Driver And The Cat with catchy '80s synths amongst electronic sounding drums and auto-tuned vocals. It may sound strange for a progressive rock release, but this band makes it work.

What we have here is a band that isn't afraid to be strange and quirky. This sets them apart from a large portion of progressive rock bands that take themselves a little too seriously. This band embraces their sense of humor and leaves it all out on display for the listener. This could turn some listeners off, but for me this makes the album refreshing and fun to listen to over and over again. I never tire of this album and laugh in glee at all the craziness that is on display. This is definitely one of the best debut albums I've ever heard, and I believe it is one of the strongest albums of the year. This album is for those looking for something different, with a healthy amount of humor and variety. I can't wait to see what these guys pull off next.

 

9/10

 

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Santana IV

 

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Guranfoe - Sum Of Erda

 

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Los Exploraides - Inventure

 

 

Pendragon - Love Over Fear

 

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Last Knight - Seven Deadly Sins

 

 

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Lust (11:12), Gluttony (4:26), Greed (9:05), Sloth (11:23), Anger (7:00), Envy (12:03), Pride (14:15)
 

Last Knight refer to themselves as a 'Progressive Rock Collective', a collection of international musicians who collaborate via the internet, and bring together a fusion of musical ideas. The main collaborators are: producer and multi-instrumentalist Pablo Lato, Gustavo Lato who sings and provides guitar, and Jose Manuel Medina who is the main songwriter and provider of keyboards for the project. Pablo and Jose are the constant members of Last Knight since their first release, Lord Of Time in 2001.

 

7 Deadly Sins is only the band's fifth release, but their previous effort, Talking To The Moon consisted of 54 tracks (plus 6 bonus tracks), spread over 3 CDs, using over 30 artists and taking six years to complete; you can probably understand why.

 

The album's title, 7 Deadly Sins, does not disguise in any way the concept behind this project, which is Dante Alighieri's classic 14th century Italian poem, The Divine Comedy. This source material describes Dante's travels through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, which represents the soul's journey towards God and heaven. It is therefore no surprise that the album consists of seven songs, each of which is dedicated to one of the seven sins. The tracks vary in length. The shortest, Gluttony being four and a half minutes, with the longest, Pride being over 14 minutes. Five of the tracks weigh in at over 10 minutes, with some being split into different movements. The music is varied but is definitely progressive rock, and a very good example at that.

 

The opening track, Lust, begins with a wonderfully orchestrated opening, similar to some recent examples whose critics have referred to as Disney-like. I have never understood this comparison, as Disney orchestration is either of a classical masterpiece, or written by eminent modern composers. I was suitably impressed by all the orchestrated sections on the 7 Deadly Sins, and that is all that matters to me. The section entitled Descending Into Hell is suitably dark and doom-ridden to make the listener experience the fear of the journey.

 

The second track, Gluttony, sees the band having their tongue firmly pressed against their cheek. When I first heard the song, it was a complete surprise, and even after numerous listens, it still brings a smile to my face, and the desire to sing along to the comedic lyrics.

 

Greed sounds at times like a classic that Asia forgot to write, this is helped by Richie Castellano, of Blue Oyster Cult, adding some superb vocals to the song.

 

The penultimate track, Envy, was originally written with the idea of John Wetton providing the vocals. This was prior to his untimely passing. To fill the void left by John, the band approached regular contributor to John's latter works, John Mitchell, to provide the vocals. John accepted the offer. While Mr Mitchell will never sound like John Wetton, he provides a great performance to a song which is a fitting tribute to John Wetton. The album is also dedicated to the memory of John Wetton, and I am sure he would be happy to have been associated with a work of such quality.

 

My only criticism with the album is that Sloth sounds far too close to a particular Yes song. I will not comment further, but give it a listen and I am sure you will make the connection.

 

That taken into account, what Last Knight have produced is a stunning work, grandiose in its presentation, that it does the subject material the greatest of tributes. Highly recommended for those who have a true love of classic progressive rock.

 

9/10

 

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Hooffoot - The Lights In The Aisle Will Guide You

 

The Lights In The Aisle Will Guide You (13:05), Pablo Octavio - 1st Departure (9:46), Pablo Octavio - 7th Sea (8:37), Krematorium (Arrival for Autocrats) (14:38)
 

After hearing The Light in The Aisles Will Guide You on numerous occasions, I asked Alun, my musical and bass playing son, a simple question: "Is it jazz? Is it prog? Is it something else?"

 

He replied with a wistful smile, "I have no idea, but it's bloody, bloody good!"

 

It is obvious from the initial drum flurry, to the memorable motif which quickly follows, that Hooffoot's second album goes way beyond jazzj and pushes the boundaries of any stylistic norms associated with prog. This is an album that, although it excites, is never trite and is progressive in so many different ways. It still manages to successfully draw upon the recognisable styles and structures of jazz and prog and many points in between.

This makes the album a fantastic experience and a mouth-watering proposition.

 

Oh, what fun it must be, to precariously straddle and successfully balance and meld and make some sense of different genres and experiences of music.

In this respect, the album acts in a similar manner as an enthusiastic child that is perched aside a fence. One moment, the child tilts its head towards the east to see the rising sun and ponder the untold encounters and opportunities of that day. Later, on returning, the child squints and peers to the west, to clasp the diminishing embers of a setting day. Orange hues fade and turn towards grey and a raft of newly acquired experiences are assimilated. With a knowing smile and a nod that belies the child's age, they take on a new significance, to become a series of cherished memories and a catalyst for future possibilities.

 

That analogy, somewhat inadequately, attempts to explain and sum up Hooffoot's confidence and unusual ability to look in all directions; beyond established genre norms and expectations.

 

They are a band that has the assurance to observe and absorb, and to make sense and weave together numerous influences. There is even a touch of Scandinavian folk thrown in for good measure. These are mixed with innovative elements, which although not avant in nature, never fail to raise a goose bump or two, or tingle the nape of the neck. It is an album that remembers all that is good about prog, but proudly proclaims that it is more than willing to explore a range of interesting and enthralling musical possibilities.

 

Hooffoot's self-titled debut album was released on CD in 2017 (review here) and it quickly became one of my favourite albums of that year. Their latest album is in my view even better. It was released in the last part of 2019 and it undoubtedly would have been considered for top spot in my album of the year list.

 

The band is made up of guitarist Jocke Jönsson, keyboardist Bengt Wahlgren, bassist Pär Hallgren and drummer Jacob Hamilton. The impressive canvas created by the band is given a technicolour appeal by the inclusion of guests Ida Karlsson on sax, and impressively in Pablo Octavio – 1st Departure by Gustaf Sörnmo's expressive trumpet interjections. On occasions, a mixture of textures are provided by Göran Abelli's trombone, Samuel Lundström's violin and by Johannes Tärk on percussion.

There is an engaging retro feel that permeates and shines brightly to illuminate much of the music. However, it also possesses a contemporary edge which ensures that it sounds fresh at all times. However, perhaps most notable is the band's ability to create a strong, evolving, shape-shifting groove that underpins the wonderful ensemble playing and the beautifully-crafted arrangements.

Memorable motifs are consistently delivered. Gut-stirring keyboard flourishes, fast-fretted solos and tastefully developed guitar phrasing all have an important part to play. Effect-driven bass interludes burst through the mix to add a deep sense of harmony to the album's array of sounds.

 

Although the release only consists of four tracks, each possess so many selling points that it is difficult to do the excellence of the album justice in any written observations. It is a cliché, but this is an album that really needs to be heard and experienced.

 

There are so many standout moments that I could go on and on. The call and response in the middle of Pablo Octavio – 1st Departure makes me swoon. The strident core of Pablo Octavio - 7th Sea makes my eyebrows dance and my eyes flutter. Its funky, bass-driven core disturbs distant neighbours and provides an opportunity to controversially and loudly proclaim "Snarky Puppy, eat your heart out".

I never fail to go weak at the knees when the languid and superb organ piping of the mid-section of the lengthy title track subsides, and is brilliantly superseded by the screeching and swooping of Jönsson's guitar. I guess I had better not mention in detail, the effect the various elements of Krematorium (Arrival for Autocrats) has upon me; needless to say, they warm me to the core.

The band's core style and ability to lay down a hypnotic groove that is reminiscent of Fläsket Brinner, often reminds me of Agusa. However Hooffoot are not arguably as linear in approach and have an extra, unpredictable wow factor. This always ensures that the complex rhythms twist and shift. As a consequence, the arrangements often surprisingly divert to frequent unexpected, darkened corners. When this occurs, the various soloists are able to light up and explore the possibilities of their discovery with considerable aplomb and satiate my musical yearnings with inventive virtuosity.

 

The opening piece and title track points towards a classic jazz fusion structure and sound. Fans of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Jean Luc Ponty's early 70s solo albums will find much to admire and enjoy. Lundström's extended and sustained bowed embellishments are a highlight. It's a magnificent opening piece and its fresh approach to a range of different tempos, moods and styles, offers a creative take to what is in essence a classic, retro fusion sound.

 

The second composition, Pablo Octavio - 1st Departure is quite superb and draws more heavily upon the dazzling colours of jazz. It begins slowly with keys, bass guitar, trumpet and subtle guitar. Its atmospheric phrasing creates a dramatic effect, where space (and the notes are that are not played) are the key. It builds in an organic manner and suspense is created by its increasing use of volume and an extended dynamic range. The swooping pitch-bending of the trombone adds a greater sense of mystique as the piece develops. As an added bonus, there are some delightful electric piano flurries and rhythmic bass lines to keep your toes busy and idle fingers occupied.

Pablo Octavio - 7th Sea follows. Its main theme has an accessible hook that would not be out of place as the theme music of a television show. Oh, and did I mention the track's funky heart that never fails to wear the carpet out beneath my shoes. To cap it all, yowls and guitar squeals and howls cut in with a raw-edged appeal to create a melodious cacophony that is as impressive as anything created by any contemporary band that I have ever heard.

 

Overall, it's such an interesting composition that it defies any attempt to describe its unique sound. One moment I was considering whether it sounded like Ian Carr's Nucleus, the next my thoughts turned to Return To Forever, before in the blink of a note my thoughts turned towards Gentle Giant and a host of other prog bands.

The concluding piece on the album is arguably the most rewarding, it swings like a quasi-big band, it pervades the senses and surprises as progressive music can. It stimulates the imagination and treads a familiar retro sound that aficionados of bands such as National Health and in particular their DS al Coda release will almost certainly adore.

 

One of the many highlights of the piece is undoubtedly the searing guitar passage in the middle section. The billowing and enjoyably boisterous bass embellishments of Pär Hallgren, which become a significant feature as the piece journeys towards its conclusion, also deserve much praise and admiration.

 

Hooffoot have done it again!

 

The band's sonic footprints have left a huge impression upon my musical landscape. I for one, cannot wait for where their unique, but easily identifiable trail will next explore and lead. I have no hesitation in awarding this outstanding album the highest possible score

It's bloody, bloody great!

 

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Eris Pluvia - Tales From Another Time

 

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Galahad - Following Ghosts

 

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Pantheon - Pantheon

 

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Galaxy - Nature's Clear Well

 

 

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Pattern-Seeking Animals - S/T

 

 

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No Burden Left to Carry (9:38), The Same Mistakes Again (5:10), Orphans Of The Universe (10:28), No One Ever Died And Made Me King (3:54), Fall Away (4:47), These Are My Things (4:52), We Write The Ghost Stories (3:22), No Land’s Man (5:35), Stars Along The Way (10:20)
 

Pattern-Seeking Animals features current and former Spock's Beard members Ted Leonard, Jimmy Keegan and Dave Meros along with long-time contributing songwriter / producer John Boegehold. One could dispute the idea of creating a band consisting predominantly of members of an already established band and I will admit to being sceptical at first. That said, Boegehold's goal in starting this project was to "produce music that is progressive and intricate while keeping things immediate and melodic". After listening to the album, the logic of forming the band made much more sense to me. Though the Spock's Beard sound is there to some extent, this is definitely something different.

 

The album is musically more accessible, but don't let that scare you away. This self titled debut is definitely progressive but freed of the responsibility of staying true to a familiar brand, Pattern-Seeking Animals allows these musicians to change their spots. I wouldn't classify it as a monumental change and fans of their other work will find much to enjoy here. To my ears, the most distinct differences comes in the compositional arrangements and vocals. Even the longer songs feel more concise than a equal length Spock's Beard track. Also, the duo vocal work of Leonard and Keegan is outstanding and adds to the intriguing sound of this band.

 

As would be expected, the longer tracks are the most proggy and in the case of the Yes influenced Orphans of the Universe and the captivating Stars Along the Way, they are also the highlights of the album. Regardless of song length though, there is a consistent quality to the material. Songs such as The Same Mistakes Again, No One Ever Died and Made Me King and No Land's Man (complete with melodic whistling!) are very strong.

 

Other highlights include the ballad Fall Away and the almost novelty like, We Write the Ghost Stories. The album displays a modern edge while still embracing some of the elements of progressive rock of the past.

 

Like any good album, it ultimately comes down to the quality of the songwriting and the performances. Using that gauge, this release is a considerable success. In fact, Pattern-Seeking Animals is one of the better Spock's Beard related releases of the post-Neal Morse era of the band. It is also one of the best albums of 2019 thus far.

 

9/10

 

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A.C.T - Rebirth (E.P)

 

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The Ruler Of The World (5:26), Running Out Of Luck (3:28), Digital Affair (4:11), Meet The Past (3:55), A Broken Trust (5:11)
 

I was introduced to A.C.T. in 1999 through a friend via the band's first album, Today’s Report. I fell in love instantly with their sound, progressive pop structures and AOR / prog metal crafted musicality. Like a contagious virus this band has managed to infiltrate into my happy system, nestle therein and continue to grow with each following album.

 

Being able to see them perform live in those days, prior to and in support of Imaginary Friends and Last Epic firmly secured them in my heart, and when they finally got their tour with Saga, the future looked bright and shiny. Silence, one of the musical highlights of the year 2006, should have perfected it, but unexpectedly proved to be a tragic turning point, resulting in the real deal: silence.

 

Dormant for years, the happy virus prevailed in 2014 with the release of Circus Pandemonium, and the additional retrospective “caught in act” live-studio performance on Trifles and Pandemonium. Both were highly acclaimed albums and a smooth continuation and upgrade to their previous efforts. Astonishingly these superb albums again didn’t gather much commercial success. A puzzling thought, which still strikes me as odd, as it probably does to the band as well. Thankfully they carry on nonetheless, firmly believing in their music, and now present their new intriguingly-named EP Rebirth.

 

And once the summery, twirling bird sounds burst into sparkling keyboards and engaging melodies, it’s as if time has stood still since that first encounter all those years ago.

 

The Ruler Of The World is an instant trip back to the eclectic sound of their first album, with a bursting, rejuvenated newfound energy. Magnificently-executed, sudden, unexpected tempo changes, frivolous theatrical melodies and cheerful vocals flow naturally, supported by tight, dynamic drums and bass. Keys, next to adding playful piano parts, add lots of symphonic orchestral bridges which combine delightfully with the refined guitar parts. Add to this the carefully arranged vocal harmonies, reminiscent of Queen at their mid-seventies creative peak, and my inner grin has instantly reappeared.

 

The excitingly catchy Running Out Of Luck enforces more intense happy feelings and provokes cheerful images and visions of an unforgettable quirky dance routine by vocalist Herman Saming. The interplay is superb throughout, with each instrument complementing the next, yet undeniably creating its own melody-line in between. In full swing, they incorporate touches of the aforementioned Saga and City Boy with technical precision, individual musicality and enchanting keyboards, establishing a happy outer expression on my face.

 

A minor departure from these first two tracks is Digital Affair, with a more 80s synth pop approach, enhanced by the use of computerised vocals. Slightly less complex and more straight forward, it needs some adjustment on my part, though the bridges and choruses do fall into A.C.T.'s unique category and trademark. With a highly seductive middle section of unctuous guitars, gracefully flowing into It Bites and with upliftingly-profound melancholic melodies, mood swings and happy sunny keyboards, it gives a more than welcome Last Epic feel, maintaining my facial smile.

 

As if to immediately apologise for this slight diversion, Meet The Past sparkles with a catchy, keyboard-driven pomp rock extraordinaire, carrying the Trickster / E.L.O. influence brilliantly with orchestral interludes, reggae strides and an enchantingly refined piano. The divine vocal interaction of Saming, with Jerry Sahlin (synthesisers, vocals, backing vocals) adds extra depth and layers, a feature they could explore more in future. The spontaneous, groovy drive laid down by Peter Asp (bass) and Thomas Lejon (drums) carries the track splendidly. Again very much to my liking, judging from my now evidential ear to ear smile.

 

The last song of the EP, A Broken Trust, gives further insight into their versatility and refinement. With strong riffs from the impeccable, and virtuouso Ola Andersson on guitars, a playful seventies hard-rock like track glides by, exhibiting brief touches of Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. Adjustment is needed ever so delicately again, but the combination of progressive deliciousness, frequently shifting rhythms, elusive harmonies, beautiful arrangements (ABBA coming to mind), orchestration and an outstanding guitar-solo, all have the same end result: a heart-warming firm and solid grin. This might be the stranger in their midst, but I’ll take it any day, no questions asked.

 

It feels like A.C.T. have found a way to go back to zero and apply their knowledge to relaunch themselves exactly as they did at the beginning at their career. Impressive, vibrant and bursting full of ideas and energy, brought with a playful boyish charm. One might argue they proceed more or less on the same pathway, but if after 20 years they still manage to change this grumpy old reviewer into a reborn, happy-go-lucky youngster, you won't hear me complain. Far from it. And judging from the ending, with chattering birds and piano strophes closing abruptly in familiar daintiness, there may be more hatching soon.

Egg-cellent!

 

 

8/10

 

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Gryphon - Reinvention

 

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Antoine Fafard - Borromean Odyssey

 

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Invisible Pastel (4:51), ProgRation (4:59), Borromean Odyssey I (0:46), The Seventh Extinction (5:28), Borromean Odyssey II (1:47), Chemical Reactor (4:49), Borromean Odyssey III (1:22), Terra Nullius (5:08), Borromean Odyssey IV (1:17), Time Lapse (5:04), Borromean Odyssey V (1:23), Inspired Mechanics (5:24), Trident (4:55)
 

Have you ever experienced an album that makes your jaw ache and your ears tingle?

 

I have!

 

Antoine Fafard's latest release is sure to induce bouts of open-mouthed admiration that will no doubt frequently leave your jaw muscles protesting.

 

The incendiary playing of the outstanding trio of musicians involved in this release is also sure to warm and tingle unsuspecting ear drums.

 

As the music unfolds and reveals itself, a series of virtuoso performances combine, or take centre stage, to erupt with the force of molten rock. This album is so good and so powerful that it is able to create a profound physical and emotional response. The technical brilliance of the players is so impressive that there is little that a listener can do, other than sit back and be carried away on the crested peaks of the flamboyant instrumental flurries and embellishments that are at the heart of the majority of its compositions

 

Fafard has been at the forefront of progressive jazz fusion for many years. He first came to prominence as a member of Spaced Out. Many of his previous solo albums have been favourably reviewed by DPRP including Ad Perpetuum and Proto Mundi / Doomsday Vault.

 

Borromean Odyssey is in many ways his most accomplished release yet; in my view it is certainly the most enjoyable. All of the pieces were composed by Fafard, with the exception of the five tracks which wear the Bohemian Odyssey moniker. They were co-written by Fafard and drummer Todd Sucherman who is perhaps best known for his work with Styx.

 

The five Borromean Odyssey tracks create an ethereal soundscape. They offer up an image of an apocalyptic landscape that is full of drifting tones, warbling, droning keyboard sounds and yowling guitars.

 

Each piece is stylistically linked and acts as a sort of reflective, slow-paced interval tune, or as a scene-setter that complements the longer and fleet-fingered compositions that are on offer. In this respect, they work perfectly and offer a pause for thought, before the explosive, riff-laden tracks that follow burst energetically into life.

 

The album features the skills of Fafard on bass and all guitars, Sucherman on drums and percussion, and Gary Husband on leas synth and keyboards. Given the outstanding talents of these artists, it is not surprising that the playing is frequently extraordinary.

 

The sound quality of Fafard's albums is always exceptional and, in this respect, Borromean Odyssey continues this impressive standard of hi-fidelity. Its production values are outstanding. It really is a pleasure to listen to this album through headphones, or a high-end system.

 

The album begins in a frenetic and charged manner. The punchy bass lines, wailing guitars and striking drumming of Invisible Pastel are indicative of the predominant style and mood of the album. However, this piece really shows its outstanding qualities when the trio begin to solo. Husband's intoxicating synth slot flutters across the speakers in spiralling waves of expressive gurgling. Fafard's bass interlude which follows, is quite outstanding and is the first of many standout lower-end interludes throughout the album.

 

Fafard's bottom end contribution, has a richness of tone, a deftness of touch and an ability to surge powerfully when the need arises. Aspiring bass players who experience Fafard's mastery, may well find themselves scurrying in all directions in a fruitless search to emulate his genius and superb choice of tones.

 

The fast-paced mood continues in the outstanding ProgRation. If you enjoy bands such as Return to Forever and the swirling keyboard work of artists such as Jan Hammer, you will find much to admire in the wickedly complex tunes of this modern take on a classic fusion sound.

 

The album's superb mix of styles is self-evident in ProgRation, which is a great vehicle for the outstanding electric piano work of Husband. His solo is a highlight of the piece, and when it eventually subsides, it is complemented by a twirling outbreak of twisting synth sounds. The piece is further embellished and expertly enhanced by some masterful ensemble work.

 

The Seventh Extinction contains some of the most infectious bass parts to be found on the album. Complex rhythms strike, twist and dare a listener to attempt to follow its complex web of intricate patterns. The manner in which Fafard communicates a range of feelings with his instrument, whilst still providing a rhythmic framework for his compositions is frequently nothing short of phenomenal.

 

The Seventh Extinction is probably my favourite piece on the album. However, this is not strictly true, because whenever I hear the other pieces, they often become my preferred track for that day. For example, as I write this review, the fast-paced Chemical Reactor, is causing steam to break out from the depths of my speakers, and is reaching out to be played again and again

 

Borromean Odyssey strikes in all the right areas. The more I have listened to it, the more satisfying it has become. The tunes are memorable, the playing is magnificent and the sound quality is simply outstanding.

 

The detailed booklet that accompanies the album is well produced. It contains an evocative short story that sets the scene and the context of the music. It links Borromean Odyssey to the narrative contained in Fafard's previous release Proto Mundi. The front cover art work by Dima Zasimovich is particularly effective. It helps to create a visual image, upon which Fafard's apocalyptic soundscapes, imaginatively spun compositions and electrifying playing can be placed.

 

This is an album that is bound to resonate with anybody who has an affinity with this style of music. Some critics might argue that it is somewhat derivative of an easily identifiable, typical fusion style, and arguably offers little that is innovative, experimental or new. However there is no denying that this is a release that delivers in every respect and does not disappoint in any way.

 

In short, Borromean Odyssey has the technical and creative qualities that ensure that it is able to satisfy on both an emotional and intellectual level. What more could any fan of fusion music want?

Sit back and be prepared to experience the jaw ache.

 

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The Fyreworks - S/T

 

 

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Edited by progladyte

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On 14/03/2020 at 7:06 PM, patjoy said:

Hmmm.........not sure what to think about this one yet. Hopefully it will grow on me. Didn't stop me pre-ordering the red, white and signed vinyls and the deluxe boxset. I tell you this hobby is a sickness! 🥴🤪

Yes me to. It's defiantly a change of direction. Usually l buy Steve's stuff unheard.  Would have to listen to the album before l commit to this one.

 

Maybe the financial aspect of Corona V has also made me ultra cautious? 

 

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On 16/03/2020 at 6:41 PM, JukKluk2 said:

Downloaded this yesterday,

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in 44.1/24 resolution. Musically and sonically excellent. Have also taken advantage of the above mentioned Symbole album and will be playing it as soon as Fish finishes.

Love this guy. Slowly buying all his stuff. Buying directly from his site at pretty reasonable prices, l think. Well it was, before our $ flatlined.

 

Hard to believe that the upcoming album is his last. The same with touring, Europe only, if not cancelled, which now would be a certainty you would think.

 

Would have loved him to have toured Aus. I live in WA. But l would have flown east to see him in a heart beat.  Imagine him at the Opera House.

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1 hour ago, progladyte said:

Afternoon team!

 

I have been getting a little depressed reading all about the corona virus so thought I'd drop in here to see if you've misbehaving properly.

 

Thought I'd take advantage of some diriculously cheap downloads so grabbed myself the following for my later aural delectation.

 

Albion - You'll Be Mine

 

 

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Oak - False Memory Archive

 

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Track List:
 
We, The Drowned (5:24), Claire De Lune (7:16), False Memory Archive (4:56), Lost Causes (8:30), Intermezzo (1:42), The Lights (10:34), These Are The Stars We’re Aiming For (4:19), Transparent Eyes (4:59), Psalm 51 (7:26)

Mark Hughes's Review

It has been five years since Norwegian band Oak released their debut album, Lighthouse which garnered a rave review in DPRP. Since that release they have lost their guitarist Ole Michael Bjørndal and are now a three-piece of Simen Valldal Johannessen (vocals, piano, keyboards), Sigbjørn Reiakvam (bass, electric guitars, banjo, keyboards) and Øystein Sootholtet (drums, percussion, keyboards).

 

Any suspicion that the debut release was a fluke that managed to hit the zeitgeist of the time, are dispelled immediately this CD begins with We, The Drowned. The feeling is very melancholic, aided by the empathetic and quite sublime vocals of Johannessen. The five-year interlude has certainly not been spent in idleness, as quality pervades with each song, offering something different and yet familiar. Claire De Lune is heavier on the electronica and some teeth rattling low bass frequencies mingled in with a lovely fretless bass. Melodies are always to the fore and the rather unique blend of musical influences, from folk-rock, electronic dance, classical, post-rock and, yes, even prog are blended to perfection.

 

The title track is, by itself, worth getting hold of the album for, the syncopated clapping providing a backdrop to the keyboard melody as well as more superb vocals. The slow and quiet start to Lost Causes is very deceptive, as it is a great surprise when the deeply intoned spoken text breaks out. The build of the track is very considered and mature with fellow countryman Bjorn Riis (from Airbag), with whom some of Oak have toured as part of his backing band, adding some class guitar phrases that gradually come become more prominent and eventually take over as the lead instrument. There also sounds like some quite out-there saxophone, but as no sax player is mentioned I guess it is either some very clever playing or adept programming.

 

The Intermezzo, a piano adaptation of Debussy's Claire De Lune (mmm, I wonder where we have heard that before?) blends wonderfully into The Lights, the lyrics of which alternate between more deeply intoned talking and sung sections. In written form that might sound a bit naff, but it works remarkably well. The contrast between the two and the whispered title lends an air of mystery and suspense. There is a sort of resemblance to the last two albums by Talk Talk, not as minimalistic, but certainly a bold and novel approach.

 

An organ opens These Are The Stars We're Aiming For and things proceed along quite gently until a splendid chorus drags one out of their reverie. The album is completed by two tracks that are of a more contemplative nature. Transparent Eyes is a love song of sadness and loss. It is followed by the largely acoustic and perhaps confessional, Psalm 51. A beautiful way to end the album, although the end of the songs offer hints that it is not actually the final world.

 

For a second album, False Memory Archive is stunningly accomplished and leaves one wanting more. However, if five years is the time one has to wait in order to achieve an album of this quality, then it is well worth the wait.

 

9/10

 

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Coma Rossi - S/T

 

 

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Mirage (7:49), Transmission (6:44), Jomolungma Is Far Away (8:49), Yellow Escape (6:14), Dream (13:46), Stillborn (7:47), Turn Back Time (6:52), Lost (9:14)
 

It's always a refreshing reminder that progressive (cliché alert!) rock related music knows no boundaries and here we have one of the few bands from the Indian subcontinent called Coma Rossi with their self-titled debut album. These guys are based in Bangalore.

 

What do they sound like? Well, from their FB page their influences range from: Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Camel, Tool, No-Man, Dave Brubeck, Japan, Radiohead to Tangerine Dream. It's safe to say you can certainly hear some of these western influences, especially any project by Steven Wilson.

 

What's the album about? Here's a quote from the album notes:"The music, though not bound by a singular concept, dwells in the underbelly of human emotions and surrealism that affects our perception of the world. The lyrics explore the feelings of loss, grief, and effect of time on relationships, but with a very strong undertone of hope. This album strives to depict human existence in midst of all the modern day chaos and the machine which is life."

 

And the music? Well here's my take on this band and album.

 

They're not an out-and-out technical band in the sense of complicated and bewildering solos strewn all over the place. It's more about creating atmospheric, layered tapestry of sounds, that can combine distorted metal-based riffs with supporting spacey keyboards and the occasional solo here and there. Certainly the first track, Mirage falls into this category. In fact this track does remind me of Opeth. The band do have a hankering for a good melody which is clear throughout the album with some great vocals from Tom Borah who sounds very western in his singing. Another track that conjures up these musical attributes is the intensity of the instrumental Jomolungma Is Far Away, with a fine guitar solo work towards the end.

 

There are more ambient heart-felt moments like Yellow Escape with definite leanings towards No-man and anything that Tim Bowness might have touched! A very atmospheric and sad vibe that works well within the overall context of this album. A good song indeed.

 

The centre piece to this album is the 14 minute track Dream. Replete with throbbing synthesisers, jangly stroked guitar chords, sympathetic solos, metallic riffs, atmospheric keyboard soundscapes, guitar and piano arpeggios, haunting background vocals that make for a fine track.

 

The song Turn Back Time is a track worth mentioning here because they enter the realms of cross-over prog with leanings towards a more pop sound with a very good melody, catchy chorus and some wonderful singing from Tom Borah, best on the album. Check out the official video.

 

The last track Lost continues with that cross-over pop feel with acoustic guitars, haunting melody, spacey keyboard sounds. Then it suddenly explodes into a heavier vibe with a startling synth keyboard solo (reminded me of Steve Wilson's Regret #9). Further into the song we also get a good guitar solo. A sub 10 minute track that offers some great moments and a fine way to end the album.

 

Overall it's a good debut album, but I do feel they missed a trick by not weaving into their compositions their take on western prog by incorporating some of their rich cultural musical heritage - isn't that being progressive? I know artists such as Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel have plundered such rich seams of music and it would have been interesting what Coma Rossi would have conjured up coming at it from the opposite direction. Also for me the album is too long (curse of the CD I guess) as I personally find it hard to find the time to listen to an album that's over an hour long. If vinyl only existed I wonder what these guys would have done differently to hit that magic 45 minute mark.

 

Anyway, great start guys, a worthy 7 out of 10.

 

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Moon Letters - Until They Feel The Sun

 

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Skara Brae (2:50), On The Shoreline (3:37), What Is Your Country (2:35), Beware The Finman (7:47), Those Dark Eyes (7:36), Sea Battle (9:00), The Tarnalin (4:34), It's All Around You (1:10), The Red Knight (4:25), Sunset Of Man (7:29)
 

Welcome to "This Is Your Life"! And a grand applause to our hosts on this evening's fantastic voyage: Moon Letters!

 

That's the vision I have when listening to Until They Feel The Sun. For if there is an album which sums up many of my childhood affections and passionate explorations and findings in music then this is the one. To elaborate, I must mention that we grew up being constantly fuelled on music by a mentor who devotedly fed, nourished, tweaked and polished our small community with a wide variety of inspired seventies music. It was around 1980 and it ranged from hard-rock and metal to AOR and progressive rock, with everything in between. He also provided our first encounters with neo-progressive bands like Pallas and Marillion, still in the early stages of their careers, and managed to warm our hearts to bands like Lynx, Kansas, Saga and Styx.

 

In between this musical journey we tried to find precious gems ourselves. Individual discoveries we immediately spread amongst our group, being so exceptional they needed to be heard by all. As it turns out, it proved to be a long list of melancholic records, with some still to be found on my desert island list. Obviously accompanied by a great many more, discovered in the years that followed, circling and hovering above, attempting to find a landing place. They were albums with a marvellous display of talent and musicality, whilst being adventurous, comforting and unique.

 

Each has a distinct sound and corresponding feeling or memory attached to them. So trying to categorise and explain this complex palate is therefore nigh on impossible. Or so I thought. I swear I don't recall ever having conversed with any of Moon Letters' members, but they still come awfully close to expressing my upbringing with Until They Feel The Sun.

 

Having only been around since 2016, Moon Letters originate from Seattle, which is the place to be right now with organised events like the Seattle Seaprog festival. It's also the base for many new prog bands including Moon Letters. Along with Michael Trew on vocals and flute, they consist of John Allday (keyboards and vocals), Dave Webb (guitar), Mike Murphy (bass and vocals) and Kelly Mynes (drums and percussion).

 

Ambitiously, their first album is a concept telling the bittersweet tale of a man falling in love with a Selkie, a mysterious, mystical, elusive creature from the sea with the ability to bond with, and morph into human form (and back again). This romantic fairytale is beautifully captured through many layers and deeply touching lighter movements while heavier elements express the inner turmoil of the relationship. And thankfully these struggles are many, for it's the heavier passages where Moon Letters excel.

 

It begins with an enchanting instrumental overture Skara Brae, locating the events near the islands in the Orkney region of Scotland, coincidentally the birthplace of one of my favourite whiskies. Great melodies with a seventies symphonic feel reveal themselves with a distinct Yes feel (circa Close To The Edge) and a vintage, melancholic production. It suddenly changes to a heavier prog approach with short prog-folk insertions.

 

Divine, Genesis style flute appears in On the Shoreline, which I would also associate with Neuschwanstein, a band that captured my heart. Superb bass lines and keyboards follow, while guitar gently caresses with elements of Steve Hackett and Starcastle. Trew's vocals, sounding sad yet cheerful at the same time, enhance the melancholy feeling.

 

Trew's vocals are pleasant, appealing and a delight to hear, reminiscent of a tuneful Druid and Sebastian Hardie. His expressive vocal range hits all the right notes, managing to capture the feel and mood of the concept. One can feel the excitement or agonising pain of the character through the lyrics, most evidently in the exquisite serenity displayed in What Is Your Country. It's a wondrously, mesmerising acapella track filled with enchanting harmonies, carried forward by sparse drums.

 

With Beware The Finman, the delicacy gradually turns into a more adventurous style of prog. A sudden outburst breathes fire into a Jethro Tull style landscape during their Stormwatch and A prime. A refined touch of Ian Anderson style flutes are enclosed in a highly dynamic and musically complex structure, filled with riffs and breaks. Midway through, modern sounding synths sparkle and heavy prog picks up with fleet footed, virtuous drums before slowing down into a symphonic coda. With an emotive John Petrucci-like (Dream Theater) guitar solo, the song bombastically finishes in grandiose Transatlantic style.

 

The rhythm section of bass and drums throughout is joyous, laying down complex structures with constantly changing chords and shifting time signatures, comparable to that of King Crimson. It's more in the region of Thick As A Brick era Jethro Tull however with a wonderful display of refined musical structures that's both alluring and soothing.

 

During Those Dark Eyes, dark elements of Pain Of Salvation pass by through harrowing vocals, with flying Moog giving a seventies feel, containing delightful touches of Tull and Yes. It intensifies with superb interplay and keys into a more contemporary, uptempo neo-prog sound which reaches a peak in the haunting epic Sea Battle.

 

Here, we soar into dark territories with constant mood changes and elements of Queen with complex rhythms superbly executed. Delicate passages alternate with rockier segments and psychedelic keys, with Gentle Giant and UK like interplay on guitar, bass and drums. This overwhelming wave of moreish prog, in combination with the beguiling vocals of Trew, similar to those of Brad Love (Aviary) here, could have lasted me a lifetime. It continues with blasting organ and happy movements (à la A.C.T. and City Boy) containing emotive guitars, ending in a sea of melodic hard rock with shades of Nektar.

 

The spine chilling The Tarnalin provides excellent glimpses of a Beatles inspired Aviary with piano and meticulous Queen like harmonies. Dramatically driven by marching drums and mournful trumpets, the song ends on a blissful, intimate note. The brittle, emotionally charged acoustic interlude It's All Around You gives way to the album's biggest surprise in the form of The Red Knight.

 

On this majestic track, Moon Letters raise the bar higher with perfectly executed vintage keyboard driven hard-rock / AOR. The combination of heavy melodies, harmonies, Moog, rocking riffs and complex prog passages oozes a sumptuous flow of early seventies Kansas with traces of Rose's A Taste Of Neptune. Interlocking solo's, ever-changing rhythm breaks and frequently climbed scales drive this highly contagious, entertaining and dynamic track onward, resulting in tears of happiness.

 

To round off the concept, Sunset Of Man begins with enchanting flute, gradually recalling Genesis. Spacious keys morph into graceful Anima Mundi style symphonies (à la The Way) before spiralling into strong, up-tempo folk rock. Here Webb shows his guitar skills for one final time, making Martin Barre look pale in comparison. Aqualung like hooks juggle with Frank Marino style technique to finish this prodigious saga on a high.

 

Moon Letters' debut album has all the makings of a classic. 35 years ago, it would have been shared instantly amongst our group of music devotees, embracing it and spreading its existence to others. It's a fulfilling throwback to the greatest moments of rock from the seventies, filled with progressiveness and has a foothold in today's music scene.

 

The comparisons made in this review are just a fraction of the influences to be heard on this wholly satisfying album. With each turn, delicious and unexpected surprises occur. It even manages on occasions to spark fond memories of Netherworld's In The Following Halflight, an album that's been on my desert island for a long time.

 

Any day now, Until They Feel The Sun will plot its course, to fly alongside Mystery and Dilemma above my desert island. Perhaps I should build a control tower and a landing strip to keep things organised and create some way of descent. Until that occurs, I'd advise everyone to listen and hear for yourself the beauty that lies within this album.

 

10/10

 

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Jarod fedele - A Collection of Colour

 

 

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Light Damage - Numbers

 

 

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Dust - Dust

 

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Tempest - Thirty Little Turns

 

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Moron Police - A Boat On The Sea

 

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Hocus Pocus (1:20), The Phantom Below (4:12), The Invisible King (4:05), Beware the Blue Skies (4:11), The Dog Song (3:20), Captain Awkward (5:12), The Undersea (3:27), Isn't it Easy! (6:57)
 

Some albums require a review that has a more forensic manner. Either to provide readers with a justification for the aroma of distaste that one has developed for its sounds, or to inundate readers with a flood of purchase-inducing adjectives.

 

Other albums can be covered in a more precise prose; not wishing to delay a single reader from bathing in an album's sonic sauna.

 

This third offering from Norway's Moron Police, falls clearly into the second category.

 

These dimwit detectives first appeared in 2012, when still safety wrapped in their teens. Their debut album, The Propaganda Machine, can politely be filed under "experimental". It did however provide a platform for the widely admired Defenders of the Small Yard, which drew a favourable verdict from DPRP back in 2016 for its fun-filled blend of metal, avant-prog and disco (review here).

 

This time they've shred their metal stylings. Instead, A Boat On The Sea focuses on a prog-pop sound that borrows regular snippets from the pick-n-mix counter of musical influences.

 

Amazing harmonies bounce across the heads of Scandic melancholy, fuelled by massive, hook-wielding choruses, wanton outbursts of guitar and synths, and some superlative-spitting musical gymnastics. Think of the compact pop-prog of A.C.T., a less-flowerly Flower Kings, or a less rocky Von Hertzen Brothers, with the harmonies of Moon Safari and, somewhere in the distance, the atmospherics of Soup. Put on a big happy smiley face and you have the basic formula for A Boat On The Sea.

 

No album in this or any other year will put as big a smile on your face as this one. It is quirky enough to be different, yet familiar enough not to be quirky. Look at the track times above. Nothing passes or even comes close to a sell-by-date, yet every song is packed with variety and delights.

 

Highlights? There are so many. Try the lust-for-life pace and joy that drives The Phantom Below. Or the how-the-feck-do-they-do-that verse on Captain Awkward. Or the delightful grand piano and Hammond that draw you back down a few gears in the calmer sections. Add to all of this, one of the most endearing album covers I have ever seen (I want one of those on my toilet wall!), on top of a sparkling production and some hard-hitting, socially-aware lyrics.

 

Simply put; this is one of the best modern pop-prog albums you will ever get the chance to hear! Guaranteed to bring a smile to your colon. Now off you trot and buy your own copy!

 

10/10

 

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Stratus Luna - S/T

 

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Nimue (6:04), O Centro do Labirinto (7:56), Zarabatana (9:34), Pandas Voadores (5:53), NREM-1 (2:15), Onírica (7:31), Efêmera (7:34)
 

Stratus Luna are a young prog-jazz-rock group from São Paulo (their eldest member is only 21). They formed when Ricardo Santhiago (guitars, lap steel), his brother Gustavo (keyboards, flute) and cousin Giovanni Lenti (drums) started studying music. In 2017, Gabriel (the son of Gong's guitar player Fabio Golfetti) joined the band to provide bass. This self-titled album is their debut-release.

 

For all their youth, Stratus Luna produce mature music full of complexity. Mixing nods to 70s instrumental symphonic progressive rock, Canterbury psychedelia, jazz rock and world music elements, they employ vintage sounding keyboards as the basis of their sound. A sound that is muscular without being overtly heavy, combined with the restless energy of young men. And they have a way with a tune.

 

Over seven tracks, they explore their musical ideas with a wonderful, warm sound to the keyboards and guitar, while the rhythm section takes the ‘less is more’ approach. They vary the time signatures and dynamics in a well thought-out way. Each song has an individual identity to separate them, but still retains a cohesion throughout the album.

 

The signature sound on the album is, for me, Gustavo’s organ and piano playing. On Zarabatana for instance, he moves from grand piano, to organ, to synth before his brother takes the limelight for a classical Hindustani section that segues into lap steel. The keyboards return with a Soft Machine-like electric piano and an organ sound as fierce as anything by L’Orme. But this isn’t to denigrate the other fine players on Stratus Luna. It’s not that I think any of the other players are anything other than top notch, it’s just that I love the keyboards so much on Stratus Luna.

 

Stratus Luna acknowledge their influences (bands such as Camel, Nektar, the Canterbury Sound, Pink Floyd, Grobschnitt, and Ash Ra Tempel) but they have absorbed these, and have produced music informed by them, without any slavish retro-isms. It will sit in my playlists alongside the two excellent releases by the Japanese symphonic quartet ptf, and it will, I feel, rack up just as many plays.

 

These young guys should be applauded for producing Stratus Luna, an album full of melodic charms, musical chops and complexity, but at the same time it is an album that remains thoroughly accessible. One of the most enjoyable (non post-rock) instrumental albums I’ve heard recently.

 

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Damian Wilson - Disciple

 

 

Tracklisting CD-1: Disciple (5:01), Brightest Way (3:18), Heavenly Mine (3:07), Beating Inside (5:02), What a Man Can Dream (3:03), Never Close The Door (2:51), Nothing Without You (2:34), Part Of Me (3:43), Adam's Child (3:21), Quietly Spoken (2:45).


Tracklisting CD-2: Grow Old With Me (3:31) , In A Word (3:07), Just The Way It Goes (4:30), A Monday Night In March (4:07), Nothing Left In Me (4:10).

 

Most readers of DPRP will know Damian Wilson of his work for Threshold, Ayreon and Landmarq. He proved a to be a powerful (prog)rock singer. On his first solo-album, Cosmas, he already showed a totally different, acoustic, side. With Disciple Wilson joins forces with the Sheffield Youth Orchestra for a collection of songs that can almost described as little 'hymns' and love songs. No prog included.

 

The album opens with the stunningly beautiful title track. A simple, acoustic guitar and a lovely orchestral arrangement meet with the very fragile and personal lyrics of a father, who is looking at his son with pride and tenderness.


Brightest Way is a more upbeat song with a lovely Hammond-organ part. The orchestra is less prominent here, but it isn't missed. The same is the case with Heavenly Mine, which features a folky violin part and a sing-along chorus. Despite the serious nature of the lyrics, both songs are very positive tracks, a celebration of love.

The following song is a slower ballad with acoustic guitar and accompanying string quartet. The drums in the middle resemble the heart-beat that's Beating Inside. The ending is very beautiful, with drums that almost sound like a loop, with bass and string on top of it.


What A Man Can Dream is almost a Christmas lullaby, which fits nicely in this wintertime. The orchestra, flute and acoustic guitar, it's all very gentle and honest. This goes for Never Close The Door as well. A beautiful, deep bass gives much warmth to the track.


The full orchestra and band return on Nothing Without You, a upbeat song, with a positive atmosphere like Brightest Way. Like that track, this one has a sing-a-long chorus. Part Of Me is another guitar & orchestra track, but a fragile quiet, personal one.


Adam's Child starts with a short piano-part, which is followed by a lovely combination of bass, violin, flute, piano and Damian's voice. This track is another of my favorites, if not the best track of the album.


Quietly Spoken almost makes you wonder if this is the same man as the one who was in a prog-metal band like Threshold. This is the complete opposite of the big sound of that band. This song - just Damian and acoustic guitar - is so gentle and fragile, it'll certainly make you shiver.

The second CD in this set, starts with the most special track of the set. Grow Old With Me was the last song John Lennon recorded before his death (that's at least how Wilson understood it). Damian Wilson got permission to record it with the Orchestra. The piano and his voice are a great combination. Unfortunately I am not familiar with the original demo, but I am sure Wilson fully does justice to the song with this duet-version. He sings it with his colleague from Les Miserables, Alex Sharpe, who played the role of Eponine. The combination of her soprano-voice with Wilson's makes you think that it could have been part of the musical.


Band and orchestra join together on In A Word, which is a 'bigger' song, with room for Wilson to show the power of his voice. Listening to this full arrangement, including trumpet section, I would suggest the Brits to send Wilson and the Sheffield Orchestra to the European song-contest one day. They'd win.


On Just The Way It Goes, Wilson is accompanied by piano only for the first verses, but a romantic orchestral arrangement (of the kind one can hear in films) and a lovely flute-solo make this song complete. Pity it's faded out.


A Monday in March is very much in the same style as the other songs on this second disc: a combination of quieter piano-parts and big orchestral arrangements. Not that it's a bad song (to the contrary) but at this point I didn't discover much new in the songs. There could have been a bit more variations in the arrangements and styles, as was the case on Cosmas.


Because of this, one needs some concentration for Nothing Left in Me, but it's certainly worth it. This time it's Wilson with his guitar that creates the special atmosphere for the personal story: a final word.

 

All in all, I can honestly say that I enjoyed Disciple very much and I played it several times around Christmas. It simply seemed to fit that atmosphere. At the same time, that's a bit of a problem for the album: it needs these Sunday-afternoons or romantic, candlelight suppers. For the average prog-fan this album might contain too much orchestra and too much love-ballads, but lovers of Damian's voice and good music will certainly discover the strengths of this honest and fragile album: the great sound of Damian's voice and the Sheffield Youth Orchestra. No samples; just the real stuff!


My personal highlights are Disciple, Beating Inside, Adam's Child and Grow Old With Me. Final note: I missed the point why this album is pressed on two CD's.

 

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Retrospective - Latest Avidity

 

Time (0:49), Still There (6:07), Loneliness (5:13), The Seed Has Been Sown (7:52), Stop For A While (5:53), In The Middle Of The Forest (6:50), Programmed Fear (5:24), What Will Be Next (10:41)
 

This album just gets better and better and better with each listen. In the car. Whilst cooking. At my desk. On my bed. In the bath. Full hi-fi. Laptop. Mp3 or the full CD. There are just so many details. So many grooves and textures and moods. So many little melodies. Amazing guitar details. So many things to like in less than 50 minutes of music. So thank the Lord for whoever invented the 'replay' button!

 

I first encountered Retrospective eight years ago at the fifth Progressive Promotion Festival in Germany where their hour-long set impressed many (review here).

 

The two albums that have followed, have both won admiring reviews, and inclusion in my end-of-year best of lists. Both Lost In Perception and Re:Search still get regular rotation on my playlists.

 

Album number four features a largely unchanged line-up albeit with, it appears, one fewer guitarist. Jakub Roszak has that accented Polish voice that I have really warmed to and is one of the key elements that makes the Retrospective sound immediately recognisable. Beata Łagoda contributes keyboards but increasingly important is the shift she puts in as a vocalist. Her backing vocals richen the textures (as on the balladic Stop For A While) and she ably takes lead on one song here (Loneliness).

 

The guitar playing of Maciej Klimek is one of the things I love about Retrospective. He again creates some terrific riff and guitar fills throughout this album, but it's his soloing with which I fall in love with every time. Łukasz Marszałek on bass and Robert Kusik (drums) complete the line-up.

 

In terms of these seven new songs, the sounds is a natural continuation from the band's last two albums, albeit veering overall towards more rock stylings. There is still that sense of melancholia seeping throughout the album, and the guitar work in particular encapsulates many of the sounds favoured by the likes of Riverside and Collage. The way that Jakub Roszak uses semi-spoken melodies to link phases of songs is another detail that I enjoy.

 

The first single, Still There is an impressive opener with a dark, threatening riff and foreboding vocals which hint at a sonic explosion that never arrives. The soft rock chorus, followed by a superb guitar solo from the school of Mirek Gil (Collage, Believe) shows clever restraint. This band are masters at keeping the listener guessing where each song is going.

 

The Seed Has Been Sown is the album's centrepiece. Again we have some great intensity in the opening section. A lovely break around the three-minute mark changes the pace cleverly with a section led by a plucked guitar leading the listener onto a different vocal approach. The track returns to the original theme, but with a heavier metallic riff.

 

The rock sensibilities are most evident in the second half of the album. In The Middle Of The Forest has a very different, almost pop, groove mirroring the style of Simple Minds, before the final third takes a change of key for a Riverside meets U2 conclusion. Programmed Fear is catchy and bright with a guitar line that again recalls classic U2.

 

I'm always a big fan of ambiguous album titles. 'Latent avidity' is where one has a keen interest in someone or something, but one keeps that enthusiasm hidden or explored. Latent Avidity is one of the best Polish (alt-)prog releases you will hear in this or any other year. There is certainly nothing latent in my avidity for this album.

 

8/10

 

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Banco del Mutuo Soccorso - Transiberiana

 

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Stelle Sulla Terra (6:06), L'Imprevisto (3:29), La Discesa Dal Treno (6:16), L'Assalto Dei Lupi (5:35), Campi Di Fragole (3:36), Lo Sciamano (4:01), Eterna Transiberiana (6:20), I Ruderi Del Gulag (6:06), Lasciando Alle Spalle (1:47), Il Grande Bianco (6:33), Oceano: Strade Di Sale (3:39); bonus tracks: Metamorfosi (Live at Festival Prog di Veruno 2018) (9:43), Il Ragno (Live at Festival Prog di Veruno 2018) (5:43)
 

To ignore the Anglocentric nature of symphonic and progressive rock is as misguided as to deny the importance and influence of their Italian counterparts, the best of which measures up to anything the so-called “Big Five” UK bands ever produced. So, for every Close To The Edge there's a Darwin!. Unfortunately though, there's also a Buone Notizie for every Invisible Touch. It goes without saying that most of the 70s classic bands went through a creative rough patch in the following decade, and that's no more true than for Italian titans such as PFM, Le Orme or the band we're dealing with here, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. Their 80's releases veered from beauty and complexity to fall prey of pop blandness and even a "dangerous" penchant for Italo disco (a fun genre in its own right) stylings.

 

It's also true that, after a period of dormancy (if not disbandment), most of these illustrious legends came back around the turn of the millennium with renewed energy and the will to rekindle past glories. Now, it was virtually impossible to make a new Per Un Amico for the 21st century, but it was just as feasible to produce better music than anything from the 80s period. The result was (still is) a bunch of decent-to-enjoyable releases and there's PFM's Emotional Tattoos, released by Inside Out Music, to prove it.

 

Enter Transiberiana (also under the German label's umbrella), Banco's first release since Il 13 in 1994 (eat your heart out Peter Gabriel), and the first one without charismatic vocalist Francesco Di Giacomo, who sadly passed away in 2014. Before dying, Di Giacomo gave his blessing to Tony D'Alessio, who had the unenviable task of replacing a legendary (at least in Italy) singer. Did he succeed? Well, let's say his voice is an acquired taste to say the least, and I still haven't warmed to it, but you never know. After all, Nad Sylvan has his fans so who can say.

Led by the keyboards of veteran founder member Vittorio Nocenzi, the music presents an interesting balance between the acoustic and the electronic in an attempt to bridge the band's classic sound with more contemporary sensibilities. The album mostly succeeds in doing this, but I believe it is detrimental to the songwriting, which is not particularly memorable and ends up being a bit samey even if it tries to avoid traditional song structures.

 

This is not to say there aren't any highlights; among these, the majestic serenity of Il Grande Bianco is probably the best, but there are other good pieces to be found here. Stelle Sulla Terra and Eterna Transiberiana share the same melodic figures to weave a nice modern prog binomial, while Campi Di Fragole and the piano led sonic trinket which is Lasciando Alle Spalle represent the more intimate, acoustic side of the band. Also, as a nice bonus for the prog wistful, included are live renditions of two Banco classics, debut album gem Metamorfosi and Il Ragno from Come In Un'Ultima Cena, both performed with authority.

This Transiberian metaphor for life is, I guess, as good an album as it could have been, meaning not great but worthy of the Banco canon, and a pretty entertaining listening experience in its own right. That's something Yes can't say of their latest releases.

 

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Cheeto's Magazine - Boiling Fowls

 

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Track List:
Nova America (25:24), The Driver And The Cat (2:29), Volcano Burger (4:50), Teddy Bears (5:16), Four Guitars (3:08), Octopus Soup (6:52), Fat Frosties (6:14), Naughty Boy (7:10), Driver French (2:48)
 

I can't remember a time I have had more fun listening to a new release than when I first listened to Boiling Fowls by Cheeto's Magazine after hearing about the album on a popular progressive rock forum. I was grinning ear to ear the entire time as the band's humor and quirkiness washed over me. I am admittedly a huge classic Spock's Beard fan, and this album, at least the opening epic, can best be described as Spock's Beard on steroids. The band don't hold anything back on their debut release, and the shorter tracks that follow the epic show some interesting sides to an eclectic band. I have already been hooked by this young band and can't wait to see where they go from here.

The opening epic, Nova America, takes its structure from Neal Morse's many epics. There are sections of this track that I felt could almost be written by the former Spock's Beard front man. The band holds nothing back as they move from section to section. The epic starts off with a bouncy melody held together by the keyboards of Esteban Navarro. It sounds like Spock's Beard circa Beware of Darkness with its positivity and playfulness. After the first section comes another Spock's Beard trademark, the counterpoint vocal section, also reminiscent of Gentle Giant's vocal work. Then comes a heavy metal type section that is maybe more reminiscent of Haken, another quirky progressive band. Things slow down for a slower section, much like Neal Morse likes to do in his epics. There is more introspection and the vocals are more heartfelt and emotional. The vocals on this album are very interesting, sometimes a little harsh and silly, at other times beautiful and clear. The band does an excellent job of morphing to the particularly style they are playing in. The epic ends in grand fashion, repeating the big themes from the beginning and ending with a bang. This is a top notch epic and is frankly one of my new favorite epics of all time. It is a melting pot of styles and emotions, and is captivating to listen to for its entire running length.

The remainder of the album is quite varied in nature and shows that there is much more to this band than their Spock's Beard-esque style that permeates their opening epic. The Driver And The Cat begins with an instrumental counterpoint much like what Gentle Giant did in their heyday as it starts with keyboards and builds with acoustic guitar and bass. Then, the song morphs into a '80s style pop song with abundant synths, harmonized vocals and interesting beats. It is a unique blend and I imagine it might be what Gentle Giant could have sounded like had they lasted well into the '80s. Volcano Burger starts with a variety of quirky keyboard sounds before drums come in, for a very pleasing symphonic instrumental. Teddy Bears perhaps owes a bit to the sound of Frank Zappa with soaring guitars and keyboards and a quirky vocal chant with nonsensical lyrics.

Octopus Soup manages to blend several different sounds, including a section with sound effects and electronic beats with a saxophone melody on top of it. After this comes a silly chant that sounds like it could be part of an Irish drinking song. This band is certainly original! Fat Frosties is just a whole lot of fun through its variety of instrumental passages, showing further that keyboardist Esteban Navarro isn't afraid to use a variety of quirky, almost cheesy sounds in his style. Naughty Boy is fun and catchy with an interesting jazzy middle section that really swings. Driver French is another song in the vein of The Driver And The Cat with catchy '80s synths amongst electronic sounding drums and auto-tuned vocals. It may sound strange for a progressive rock release, but this band makes it work.

What we have here is a band that isn't afraid to be strange and quirky. This sets them apart from a large portion of progressive rock bands that take themselves a little too seriously. This band embraces their sense of humor and leaves it all out on display for the listener. This could turn some listeners off, but for me this makes the album refreshing and fun to listen to over and over again. I never tire of this album and laugh in glee at all the craziness that is on display. This is definitely one of the best debut albums I've ever heard, and I believe it is one of the strongest albums of the year. This album is for those looking for something different, with a healthy amount of humor and variety. I can't wait to see what these guys pull off next.

 

9/10

 

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Santana IV

 

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Guranfoe - Sum Of Erda

 

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Los Exploraides - Inventure

 

 

Pendragon - Love Over Fear

 

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Last Knight - Seven Deadly Sins

 

 

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Lust (11:12), Gluttony (4:26), Greed (9:05), Sloth (11:23), Anger (7:00), Envy (12:03), Pride (14:15)
 

Last Knight refer to themselves as a 'Progressive Rock Collective', a collection of international musicians who collaborate via the internet, and bring together a fusion of musical ideas. The main collaborators are: producer and multi-instrumentalist Pablo Lato, Gustavo Lato who sings and provides guitar, and Jose Manuel Medina who is the main songwriter and provider of keyboards for the project. Pablo and Jose are the constant members of Last Knight since their first release, Lord Of Time in 2001.

 

7 Deadly Sins is only the band's fifth release, but their previous effort, Talking To The Moon consisted of 54 tracks (plus 6 bonus tracks), spread over 3 CDs, using over 30 artists and taking six years to complete; you can probably understand why.

 

The album's title, 7 Deadly Sins, does not disguise in any way the concept behind this project, which is Dante Alighieri's classic 14th century Italian poem, The Divine Comedy. This source material describes Dante's travels through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, which represents the soul's journey towards God and heaven. It is therefore no surprise that the album consists of seven songs, each of which is dedicated to one of the seven sins. The tracks vary in length. The shortest, Gluttony being four and a half minutes, with the longest, Pride being over 14 minutes. Five of the tracks weigh in at over 10 minutes, with some being split into different movements. The music is varied but is definitely progressive rock, and a very good example at that.

 

The opening track, Lust, begins with a wonderfully orchestrated opening, similar to some recent examples whose critics have referred to as Disney-like. I have never understood this comparison, as Disney orchestration is either of a classical masterpiece, or written by eminent modern composers. I was suitably impressed by all the orchestrated sections on the 7 Deadly Sins, and that is all that matters to me. The section entitled Descending Into Hell is suitably dark and doom-ridden to make the listener experience the fear of the journey.

 

The second track, Gluttony, sees the band having their tongue firmly pressed against their cheek. When I first heard the song, it was a complete surprise, and even after numerous listens, it still brings a smile to my face, and the desire to sing along to the comedic lyrics.

 

Greed sounds at times like a classic that Asia forgot to write, this is helped by Richie Castellano, of Blue Oyster Cult, adding some superb vocals to the song.

 

The penultimate track, Envy, was originally written with the idea of John Wetton providing the vocals. This was prior to his untimely passing. To fill the void left by John, the band approached regular contributor to John's latter works, John Mitchell, to provide the vocals. John accepted the offer. While Mr Mitchell will never sound like John Wetton, he provides a great performance to a song which is a fitting tribute to John Wetton. The album is also dedicated to the memory of John Wetton, and I am sure he would be happy to have been associated with a work of such quality.

 

My only criticism with the album is that Sloth sounds far too close to a particular Yes song. I will not comment further, but give it a listen and I am sure you will make the connection.

 

That taken into account, what Last Knight have produced is a stunning work, grandiose in its presentation, that it does the subject material the greatest of tributes. Highly recommended for those who have a true love of classic progressive rock.

 

9/10

 

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Hooffoot - The Lights In The Aisle Will Guide You

 

The Lights In The Aisle Will Guide You (13:05), Pablo Octavio - 1st Departure (9:46), Pablo Octavio - 7th Sea (8:37), Krematorium (Arrival for Autocrats) (14:38)
 

After hearing The Light in The Aisles Will Guide You on numerous occasions, I asked Alun, my musical and bass playing son, a simple question: "Is it jazz? Is it prog? Is it something else?"

 

He replied with a wistful smile, "I have no idea, but it's bloody, bloody good!"

 

It is obvious from the initial drum flurry, to the memorable motif which quickly follows, that Hooffoot's second album goes way beyond jazzj and pushes the boundaries of any stylistic norms associated with prog. This is an album that, although it excites, is never trite and is progressive in so many different ways. It still manages to successfully draw upon the recognisable styles and structures of jazz and prog and many points in between.

This makes the album a fantastic experience and a mouth-watering proposition.

 

Oh, what fun it must be, to precariously straddle and successfully balance and meld and make some sense of different genres and experiences of music.

In this respect, the album acts in a similar manner as an enthusiastic child that is perched aside a fence. One moment, the child tilts its head towards the east to see the rising sun and ponder the untold encounters and opportunities of that day. Later, on returning, the child squints and peers to the west, to clasp the diminishing embers of a setting day. Orange hues fade and turn towards grey and a raft of newly acquired experiences are assimilated. With a knowing smile and a nod that belies the child's age, they take on a new significance, to become a series of cherished memories and a catalyst for future possibilities.

 

That analogy, somewhat inadequately, attempts to explain and sum up Hooffoot's confidence and unusual ability to look in all directions; beyond established genre norms and expectations.

 

They are a band that has the assurance to observe and absorb, and to make sense and weave together numerous influences. There is even a touch of Scandinavian folk thrown in for good measure. These are mixed with innovative elements, which although not avant in nature, never fail to raise a goose bump or two, or tingle the nape of the neck. It is an album that remembers all that is good about prog, but proudly proclaims that it is more than willing to explore a range of interesting and enthralling musical possibilities.

 

Hooffoot's self-titled debut album was released on CD in 2017 (review here) and it quickly became one of my favourite albums of that year. Their latest album is in my view even better. It was released in the last part of 2019 and it undoubtedly would have been considered for top spot in my album of the year list.

 

The band is made up of guitarist Jocke Jönsson, keyboardist Bengt Wahlgren, bassist Pär Hallgren and drummer Jacob Hamilton. The impressive canvas created by the band is given a technicolour appeal by the inclusion of guests Ida Karlsson on sax, and impressively in Pablo Octavio – 1st Departure by Gustaf Sörnmo's expressive trumpet interjections. On occasions, a mixture of textures are provided by Göran Abelli's trombone, Samuel Lundström's violin and by Johannes Tärk on percussion.

There is an engaging retro feel that permeates and shines brightly to illuminate much of the music. However, it also possesses a contemporary edge which ensures that it sounds fresh at all times. However, perhaps most notable is the band's ability to create a strong, evolving, shape-shifting groove that underpins the wonderful ensemble playing and the beautifully-crafted arrangements.

Memorable motifs are consistently delivered. Gut-stirring keyboard flourishes, fast-fretted solos and tastefully developed guitar phrasing all have an important part to play. Effect-driven bass interludes burst through the mix to add a deep sense of harmony to the album's array of sounds.

 

Although the release only consists of four tracks, each possess so many selling points that it is difficult to do the excellence of the album justice in any written observations. It is a cliché, but this is an album that really needs to be heard and experienced.

 

There are so many standout moments that I could go on and on. The call and response in the middle of Pablo Octavio – 1st Departure makes me swoon. The strident core of Pablo Octavio - 7th Sea makes my eyebrows dance and my eyes flutter. Its funky, bass-driven core disturbs distant neighbours and provides an opportunity to controversially and loudly proclaim "Snarky Puppy, eat your heart out".

I never fail to go weak at the knees when the languid and superb organ piping of the mid-section of the lengthy title track subsides, and is brilliantly superseded by the screeching and swooping of Jönsson's guitar. I guess I had better not mention in detail, the effect the various elements of Krematorium (Arrival for Autocrats) has upon me; needless to say, they warm me to the core.

The band's core style and ability to lay down a hypnotic groove that is reminiscent of Fläsket Brinner, often reminds me of Agusa. However Hooffoot are not arguably as linear in approach and have an extra, unpredictable wow factor. This always ensures that the complex rhythms twist and shift. As a consequence, the arrangements often surprisingly divert to frequent unexpected, darkened corners. When this occurs, the various soloists are able to light up and explore the possibilities of their discovery with considerable aplomb and satiate my musical yearnings with inventive virtuosity.

 

The opening piece and title track points towards a classic jazz fusion structure and sound. Fans of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Jean Luc Ponty's early 70s solo albums will find much to admire and enjoy. Lundström's extended and sustained bowed embellishments are a highlight. It's a magnificent opening piece and its fresh approach to a range of different tempos, moods and styles, offers a creative take to what is in essence a classic, retro fusion sound.

 

The second composition, Pablo Octavio - 1st Departure is quite superb and draws more heavily upon the dazzling colours of jazz. It begins slowly with keys, bass guitar, trumpet and subtle guitar. Its atmospheric phrasing creates a dramatic effect, where space (and the notes are that are not played) are the key. It builds in an organic manner and suspense is created by its increasing use of volume and an extended dynamic range. The swooping pitch-bending of the trombone adds a greater sense of mystique as the piece develops. As an added bonus, there are some delightful electric piano flurries and rhythmic bass lines to keep your toes busy and idle fingers occupied.

Pablo Octavio - 7th Sea follows. Its main theme has an accessible hook that would not be out of place as the theme music of a television show. Oh, and did I mention the track's funky heart that never fails to wear the carpet out beneath my shoes. To cap it all, yowls and guitar squeals and howls cut in with a raw-edged appeal to create a melodious cacophony that is as impressive as anything created by any contemporary band that I have ever heard.

 

Overall, it's such an interesting composition that it defies any attempt to describe its unique sound. One moment I was considering whether it sounded like Ian Carr's Nucleus, the next my thoughts turned to Return To Forever, before in the blink of a note my thoughts turned towards Gentle Giant and a host of other prog bands.

The concluding piece on the album is arguably the most rewarding, it swings like a quasi-big band, it pervades the senses and surprises as progressive music can. It stimulates the imagination and treads a familiar retro sound that aficionados of bands such as National Health and in particular their DS al Coda release will almost certainly adore.

 

One of the many highlights of the piece is undoubtedly the searing guitar passage in the middle section. The billowing and enjoyably boisterous bass embellishments of Pär Hallgren, which become a significant feature as the piece journeys towards its conclusion, also deserve much praise and admiration.

 

Hooffoot have done it again!

 

The band's sonic footprints have left a huge impression upon my musical landscape. I for one, cannot wait for where their unique, but easily identifiable trail will next explore and lead. I have no hesitation in awarding this outstanding album the highest possible score

It's bloody, bloody great!

 

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Eris Pluvia - Tales From Another Time

 

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Galahad - Following Ghosts

 

 

Pantheon - Pantheon

 

 

Galaxy - Nature's Clear Well

 

 

Pattern-Seeking Animals - S/T

 

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No Burden Left to Carry (9:38), The Same Mistakes Again (5:10), Orphans Of The Universe (10:28), No One Ever Died And Made Me King (3:54), Fall Away (4:47), These Are My Things (4:52), We Write The Ghost Stories (3:22), No Land’s Man (5:35), Stars Along The Way (10:20)
 

Pattern-Seeking Animals features current and former Spock's Beard members Ted Leonard, Jimmy Keegan and Dave Meros along with long-time contributing songwriter / producer John Boegehold. One could dispute the idea of creating a band consisting predominantly of members of an already established band and I will admit to being sceptical at first. That said, Boegehold's goal in starting this project was to "produce music that is progressive and intricate while keeping things immediate and melodic". After listening to the album, the logic of forming the band made much more sense to me. Though the Spock's Beard sound is there to some extent, this is definitely something different.

 

The album is musically more accessible, but don't let that scare you away. This self titled debut is definitely progressive but freed of the responsibility of staying true to a familiar brand, Pattern-Seeking Animals allows these musicians to change their spots. I wouldn't classify it as a monumental change and fans of their other work will find much to enjoy here. To my ears, the most distinct differences comes in the compositional arrangements and vocals. Even the longer songs feel more concise than a equal length Spock's Beard track. Also, the duo vocal work of Leonard and Keegan is outstanding and adds to the intriguing sound of this band.

 

As would be expected, the longer tracks are the most proggy and in the case of the Yes influenced Orphans of the Universe and the captivating Stars Along the Way, they are also the highlights of the album. Regardless of song length though, there is a consistent quality to the material. Songs such as The Same Mistakes Again, No One Ever Died and Made Me King and No Land's Man (complete with melodic whistling!) are very strong.

 

Other highlights include the ballad Fall Away and the almost novelty like, We Write the Ghost Stories. The album displays a modern edge while still embracing some of the elements of progressive rock of the past.

 

Like any good album, it ultimately comes down to the quality of the songwriting and the performances. Using that gauge, this release is a considerable success. In fact, Pattern-Seeking Animals is one of the better Spock's Beard related releases of the post-Neal Morse era of the band. It is also one of the best albums of 2019 thus far.

 

9/10

 

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A.C.T - Rebirth (E.P)

 

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The Ruler Of The World (5:26), Running Out Of Luck (3:28), Digital Affair (4:11), Meet The Past (3:55), A Broken Trust (5:11)
 

I was introduced to A.C.T. in 1999 through a friend via the band's first album, Today’s Report. I fell in love instantly with their sound, progressive pop structures and AOR / prog metal crafted musicality. Like a contagious virus this band has managed to infiltrate into my happy system, nestle therein and continue to grow with each following album.

 

Being able to see them perform live in those days, prior to and in support of Imaginary Friends and Last Epic firmly secured them in my heart, and when they finally got their tour with Saga, the future looked bright and shiny. Silence, one of the musical highlights of the year 2006, should have perfected it, but unexpectedly proved to be a tragic turning point, resulting in the real deal: silence.

 

Dormant for years, the happy virus prevailed in 2014 with the release of Circus Pandemonium, and the additional retrospective “caught in act” live-studio performance on Trifles and Pandemonium. Both were highly acclaimed albums and a smooth continuation and upgrade to their previous efforts. Astonishingly these superb albums again didn’t gather much commercial success. A puzzling thought, which still strikes me as odd, as it probably does to the band as well. Thankfully they carry on nonetheless, firmly believing in their music, and now present their new intriguingly-named EP Rebirth.

 

And once the summery, twirling bird sounds burst into sparkling keyboards and engaging melodies, it’s as if time has stood still since that first encounter all those years ago.

 

The Ruler Of The World is an instant trip back to the eclectic sound of their first album, with a bursting, rejuvenated newfound energy. Magnificently-executed, sudden, unexpected tempo changes, frivolous theatrical melodies and cheerful vocals flow naturally, supported by tight, dynamic drums and bass. Keys, next to adding playful piano parts, add lots of symphonic orchestral bridges which combine delightfully with the refined guitar parts. Add to this the carefully arranged vocal harmonies, reminiscent of Queen at their mid-seventies creative peak, and my inner grin has instantly reappeared.

 

The excitingly catchy Running Out Of Luck enforces more intense happy feelings and provokes cheerful images and visions of an unforgettable quirky dance routine by vocalist Herman Saming. The interplay is superb throughout, with each instrument complementing the next, yet undeniably creating its own melody-line in between. In full swing, they incorporate touches of the aforementioned Saga and City Boy with technical precision, individual musicality and enchanting keyboards, establishing a happy outer expression on my face.

 

A minor departure from these first two tracks is Digital Affair, with a more 80s synth pop approach, enhanced by the use of computerised vocals. Slightly less complex and more straight forward, it needs some adjustment on my part, though the bridges and choruses do fall into A.C.T.'s unique category and trademark. With a highly seductive middle section of unctuous guitars, gracefully flowing into It Bites and with upliftingly-profound melancholic melodies, mood swings and happy sunny keyboards, it gives a more than welcome Last Epic feel, maintaining my facial smile.

 

As if to immediately apologise for this slight diversion, Meet The Past sparkles with a catchy, keyboard-driven pomp rock extraordinaire, carrying the Trickster / E.L.O. influence brilliantly with orchestral interludes, reggae strides and an enchantingly refined piano. The divine vocal interaction of Saming, with Jerry Sahlin (synthesisers, vocals, backing vocals) adds extra depth and layers, a feature they could explore more in future. The spontaneous, groovy drive laid down by Peter Asp (bass) and Thomas Lejon (drums) carries the track splendidly. Again very much to my liking, judging from my now evidential ear to ear smile.

 

The last song of the EP, A Broken Trust, gives further insight into their versatility and refinement. With strong riffs from the impeccable, and virtuouso Ola Andersson on guitars, a playful seventies hard-rock like track glides by, exhibiting brief touches of Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. Adjustment is needed ever so delicately again, but the combination of progressive deliciousness, frequently shifting rhythms, elusive harmonies, beautiful arrangements (ABBA coming to mind), orchestration and an outstanding guitar-solo, all have the same end result: a heart-warming firm and solid grin. This might be the stranger in their midst, but I’ll take it any day, no questions asked.

 

It feels like A.C.T. have found a way to go back to zero and apply their knowledge to relaunch themselves exactly as they did at the beginning at their career. Impressive, vibrant and bursting full of ideas and energy, brought with a playful boyish charm. One might argue they proceed more or less on the same pathway, but if after 20 years they still manage to change this grumpy old reviewer into a reborn, happy-go-lucky youngster, you won't hear me complain. Far from it. And judging from the ending, with chattering birds and piano strophes closing abruptly in familiar daintiness, there may be more hatching soon.

Egg-cellent!

 

 

8/10

 

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Gryphon - Reinvention

 

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Antoine Fafard - Borromean Odyssey

 

 

 

Invisible Pastel (4:51), ProgRation (4:59), Borromean Odyssey I (0:46), The Seventh Extinction (5:28), Borromean Odyssey II (1:47), Chemical Reactor (4:49), Borromean Odyssey III (1:22), Terra Nullius (5:08), Borromean Odyssey IV (1:17), Time Lapse (5:04), Borromean Odyssey V (1:23), Inspired Mechanics (5:24), Trident (4:55)
 

Have you ever experienced an album that makes your jaw ache and your ears tingle?

 

I have!

 

Antoine Fafard's latest release is sure to induce bouts of open-mouthed admiration that will no doubt frequently leave your jaw muscles protesting.

 

The incendiary playing of the outstanding trio of musicians involved in this release is also sure to warm and tingle unsuspecting ear drums.

 

As the music unfolds and reveals itself, a series of virtuoso performances combine, or take centre stage, to erupt with the force of molten rock. This album is so good and so powerful that it is able to create a profound physical and emotional response. The technical brilliance of the players is so impressive that there is little that a listener can do, other than sit back and be carried away on the crested peaks of the flamboyant instrumental flurries and embellishments that are at the heart of the majority of its compositions

 

Fafard has been at the forefront of progressive jazz fusion for many years. He first came to prominence as a member of Spaced Out. Many of his previous solo albums have been favourably reviewed by DPRP including Ad Perpetuum and Proto Mundi / Doomsday Vault.

 

Borromean Odyssey is in many ways his most accomplished release yet; in my view it is certainly the most enjoyable. All of the pieces were composed by Fafard, with the exception of the five tracks which wear the Bohemian Odyssey moniker. They were co-written by Fafard and drummer Todd Sucherman who is perhaps best known for his work with Styx.

 

The five Borromean Odyssey tracks create an ethereal soundscape. They offer up an image of an apocalyptic landscape that is full of drifting tones, warbling, droning keyboard sounds and yowling guitars.

 

Each piece is stylistically linked and acts as a sort of reflective, slow-paced interval tune, or as a scene-setter that complements the longer and fleet-fingered compositions that are on offer. In this respect, they work perfectly and offer a pause for thought, before the explosive, riff-laden tracks that follow burst energetically into life.

 

The album features the skills of Fafard on bass and all guitars, Sucherman on drums and percussion, and Gary Husband on leas synth and keyboards. Given the outstanding talents of these artists, it is not surprising that the playing is frequently extraordinary.

 

The sound quality of Fafard's albums is always exceptional and, in this respect, Borromean Odyssey continues this impressive standard of hi-fidelity. Its production values are outstanding. It really is a pleasure to listen to this album through headphones, or a high-end system.

 

The album begins in a frenetic and charged manner. The punchy bass lines, wailing guitars and striking drumming of Invisible Pastel are indicative of the predominant style and mood of the album. However, this piece really shows its outstanding qualities when the trio begin to solo. Husband's intoxicating synth slot flutters across the speakers in spiralling waves of expressive gurgling. Fafard's bass interlude which follows, is quite outstanding and is the first of many standout lower-end interludes throughout the album.

 

Fafard's bottom end contribution, has a richness of tone, a deftness of touch and an ability to surge powerfully when the need arises. Aspiring bass players who experience Fafard's mastery, may well find themselves scurrying in all directions in a fruitless search to emulate his genius and superb choice of tones.

 

The fast-paced mood continues in the outstanding ProgRation. If you enjoy bands such as Return to Forever and the swirling keyboard work of artists such as Jan Hammer, you will find much to admire in the wickedly complex tunes of this modern take on a classic fusion sound.

 

The album's superb mix of styles is self-evident in ProgRation, which is a great vehicle for the outstanding electric piano work of Husband. His solo is a highlight of the piece, and when it eventually subsides, it is complemented by a twirling outbreak of twisting synth sounds. The piece is further embellished and expertly enhanced by some masterful ensemble work.

 

The Seventh Extinction contains some of the most infectious bass parts to be found on the album. Complex rhythms strike, twist and dare a listener to attempt to follow its complex web of intricate patterns. The manner in which Fafard communicates a range of feelings with his instrument, whilst still providing a rhythmic framework for his compositions is frequently nothing short of phenomenal.

 

The Seventh Extinction is probably my favourite piece on the album. However, this is not strictly true, because whenever I hear the other pieces, they often become my preferred track for that day. For example, as I write this review, the fast-paced Chemical Reactor, is causing steam to break out from the depths of my speakers, and is reaching out to be played again and again

 

Borromean Odyssey strikes in all the right areas. The more I have listened to it, the more satisfying it has become. The tunes are memorable, the playing is magnificent and the sound quality is simply outstanding.

 

The detailed booklet that accompanies the album is well produced. It contains an evocative short story that sets the scene and the context of the music. It links Borromean Odyssey to the narrative contained in Fafard's previous release Proto Mundi. The front cover art work by Dima Zasimovich is particularly effective. It helps to create a visual image, upon which Fafard's apocalyptic soundscapes, imaginatively spun compositions and electrifying playing can be placed.

 

This is an album that is bound to resonate with anybody who has an affinity with this style of music. Some critics might argue that it is somewhat derivative of an easily identifiable, typical fusion style, and arguably offers little that is innovative, experimental or new. However there is no denying that this is a release that delivers in every respect and does not disappoint in any way.

 

In short, Borromean Odyssey has the technical and creative qualities that ensure that it is able to satisfy on both an emotional and intellectual level. What more could any fan of fusion music want?

Sit back and be prepared to experience the jaw ache.

 

**********************************************************************

The Fyreworks - S/T

 

 

Thanks mate. And, as always your contributions are greatly appreciated. This one is a doozy. It will take me a day to read and process it all.

 

Speaking of CV. It's still a bit surreal at the moment. But as reality kicks in, the enormity of it is starting to have an impact on(me) all of us.

 

Trying to maintain some normality, but with extreme caution. Still going to the gym. But l noticed a huge drop off this last week. Yesterday, there were only 2 people there. I'm cleaning every piece of equipment l use and l have never washed my hands so much in my life. But this is the new normal now.

 

Went to a local bar last night. Same.

I usually sit outside anyway, but the table spacings were 3 metres apart (smart).  But only about a dozen people where there though.

 

It's a tough call isn't it. Part of me wants to support all local business in my community. But part of my brain says that l should self isolate.

 

But that decision may well be decided for us, as all hospitality industry/gyms, etc, may be regulated to close.

 

I have never experienced anything like this in my life before, as with the majority of other Australians. Tough times ahead. But if we all pull together, we will get through this.

 

Sorry to bang on about this. But l feel better, having written this.

 

Best Wishes.

 

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2 hours ago, needlerunner said:

Thanks mate. And, as always your contributions are greatly appreciated. This one is a doozy. It will take me a day to read and process it all.

 

Speaking of CV. It's still a bit surreal at the moment. But as reality kicks in, the enormity of it is starting to have an impact on(me) all of us.

 

Trying to maintain some normality, but with extreme caution. Still going to the gym. But l noticed a huge drop off this last week. Yesterday, there were only 2 people there. I'm cleaning every piece of equipment l use and l have never washed my hands so much in my life. But this is the new normal now.

 

Went to a local bar last night. Same.

I usually sit outside anyway, but the table spacings were 3 metres apart (smart).  But only about a dozen people where there though.

 

It's a tough call isn't it. Part of me wants to support all local business in my community. But part of my brain says that l should self isolate.

 

But that decision may well be decided for us, as all hospitality industry/gyms, etc, may be regulated to close.

 

I have never experienced anything like this in my life before, as with the majority of other Australians. Tough times ahead. But if we all pull together, we will get through this.

 

Sorry to bang on about this. But l feel better, having written this.

 

Best Wishes.

 

 

 

I think you have pretty well nailed it there!

 

Well spoked!!!!  😁

 

 

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Hi All,

 

Just been to Fish's website and ordered the following:

 

Marillion: Script For A Jester's Tear, 4 LP Vinyl Set

 

2114789424_ScriptForAJestersTear.jpg.c3b2c030369fc5ef6456fc8748b36e4b.jpg

 

and

 

Fish, A Feast Of Consequences Double Album

 

731066134_FeastOfConsequences.jpg.f7ea5dd153e2e906581efcf66d63fcba.jpg

 

JJ

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Posted (edited)

Here's something I missed recently.

 

As much as I would love to see a proper reunion along with some new material, methinks this come-back tour might not eventuate due to this damned virus going around

 

 

 

Edited by progladyte

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Dream Theater - Distance Over Time, home alone so it’s getting the appropriate volume, sounding great.

 

661E6099-710E-4C29-A451-942C3469B470.jpeg

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